Former Miller president dies

By Published on .

Most Popular
John A. Murphy, former president of Miller Brewing Co., died June 16, in his hometown of Glen Cove, N.Y. He died from complications after surgery for a ruptured aneurysm. He was 72.

Mr. Murphy, often considered the father of the light beer category, presided over Miller Brewing when it introduced Miller Lite in 1975 and changed the company's strategy from a focus on one brand to producing a variety of beers for all types of people.

He began his career in 1962 as an assistant general counsel at Philip Morris Cos. After Philip Morris bought Miller, he was named Miller's CEO in 1971. Under Mr. Murphy's guidance, the company rose to second largest in American beer sales behind Anheuser-Busch. When relations between Miller and Anheuser-Busch were particularly strained, Mr. Murphy was said to have placed a rug under his desk with the Anheuser-Busch logo, on which he wiped his feet and rolled his chair.

Mr. Murphy took advantage of Philip Morris' large budget to market Miller's products by using football players in ads and buying TV commercial time during network sports events.

"He was one of the great marketing genuises," said Carl Spielvogel, who worked with Murphy when Mr. Spielvogel was the chairman-CEO of Backer Spielvogel Bates Worldwide, Miller's former agency. "He understood the beer-drinker and the consumer without reading the research."

In 1977, Advertising Age named Mr. Murphy Adman of the Year.

In 1984, Mr. Murphy returned to parent company Philip Morris as president. He was promoted to vice chairman in 1991. Although Mr. Murphy retired in 1992, he still visited the company's offices once a week.

Mr. Murphy leaves his wife, Carole; his sons, John Jr., Kevin, Robert and Timothy; his daughters, Kellyann Jones and Kathleen Conran; and 20 grandchildren.

In this article: