Pernod Ricard North America CEO’s mother was killed by a drunk driver. It inspired her to lead the liquor giant: ‘The universe was trying to tell me something’

Ann Mukherjee, chair and CEO of Pernod Ricard North America.
DeSean McClinton for Fortune

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Goldman Sach settles its long-running pay disparity lawsuit, Frank founder Charlie Javice notches a win against JPMorgan Chase, and the CEO of Pernod Ricard North America brings her personal history to her leadership in the liquor industry. Have a terrific Tuesday.

– Drink responsibly. Ann Mukherjee has worked in salt (PepsiCo), sugar (Kraft Heinz), and now alcohol as the CEO of Pernod Ricard North America.

It’s her current job that resonates the most in Mukherjee’s own life—in a way some might find surprising, as my colleague Phil Wahba writes in a new Fortune story. When Mukherjee was a teenager, her mother was killed by a drunk driver. Before that, Mukherjee was sexually assaulted by a man who was drunk. And yet, she’s chosen to sell liquor at the company behind Absolut and Glenlivet.

Ann Mukherjee, chair and CEO of Pernod Ricard North America.
DeSean McClinton for Fortune

From her position as North America CEO, overseeing 30% of Pernod Ricard’s total €10.7 billion ($11.7 billion) in 2022 sales, Mukherjee aims to encourage responsible consumption. She did the same, in a different context, as the “Queen of Corn” overseeing the corn chips portfolio at PepsiCo.

“If this were a world that only serviced needs and not wants, it would be a tough world to live in. My entire career has been about helping people enjoy life but doing it in a responsible way, with moderation,” she says. That’s what Mukherjee says she does, choosing a dirty Absolut martini on a date night with her husband and Scotch at home with her girlfriends.

“I felt the universe was trying to tell me something,” she says of the Pernod Ricard job coming her way. “Losing my mother was the greatest loss of my life, and no one, and I mean no one, should have to go through that. That’s why I’m here. It’s important to advocate for the responsible use of products.”

Simply put, she says, “If you’re buying our products as a weapon, we don’t want your business.”

Mukherjee aims to improve the spirits industry in other ways, too. She criticizes liquor stores as unwelcoming to women, with low lighting and shelves stocked high and out of reach. She’s encouraging the industry to create opportunities for more discovery and a pleasant browsing experience that is welcoming to drinkers of all identities.

I highly recommend reading the rest of Phil’s interview for more of Mukherjee’s insights on the spirits industry.

Emma Hinchliffe

The Broadsheet is Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Today’s edition was curated by Claire Zillman. Subscribe here.


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