Pawet Kalmanowicz (Paul Kalmanovitz) was born to a Jewish family in Lodzkie (Lodz), Poland. He makes his first appearance in history at the end of WWI, when he fled the turmoil of Eastern Europe and sought opportunities in Egypt. Although his hometown was devastated during the war, his family stayend behind as the city was becoming a haven for the many displaced Jews of eastern Europe.
In 1926 Kalmanovitz enlisted in the newly-formed Egyptian Merchant Marine. In its service he traveled the world. In the summer of 1927 he jumped ship in Mexico and made his way to the port of Calexico, California, where he walked across the border into America on August 2nd.
Kalmanovitz married in 1937. His new wife, Lydia Ehle Koehnen was a fellow Jewish emigre form Eastern Europe. On the marriage license Paul described himself as a garage manager, a position which he had risen from chauffeur. By the time Adolph Hitler was beginning his aggression in Europe Kalmanovitz was describing himself as an "executive" in a "financial organization". In fact he was in the restaurant business. Newspaper accounts of the 1930s and 40s show he was the victim of several robberies, and one gets the impression that he was regarded as a bit of a shady character. Kalmanovitz was drawn to the rich and powerful, and they to him. In the 40s he worked for future president Franklin D. Roosevelt, publisher William Randolph Hearst and MGM Studios president Louis B. Mayer.
Back in Europe, Hitler was scapegoating the Jewish population. Lodz, like many other cities in eastern Europe, was ghettoized. His mother Chana died in the Lodz Ghetto in 1944. Paul's remaining family were arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where his brothers Leon and Joseph were killed.
In 1950 Kalmanovitz acquired the struggling Maier Brewing Company in Los Angeles, California. Within the year he introduced a new brand, Brew "102" Beer, to thirsty Angelenos, and the brewery began to make a profit. In 1958 the Falstaff Brewing Corp. of St. Louis, Missouri was looking for a California brewery to augment their small 100,000 barrel San Jose facility and made an aggressive pitch for Kalmanovitz's Maier. When Kalmanovitz demurred Falstaff retaliated and promised to "Bury" Kalmanovitz's Los Angeles firm. Kalmanovitz had other plans. Within 14 years Kalmanovitz's Maier would become one of the last two breweries standing in a city of 2.8 million people.
In 1971 Kalmanovitz purchased the General Brewing Co. of San Francisco, brewers of Lucky Lager Beer. The next year he incorporated the Walters Brewery of Pueblo, Colorado and the A.B.C. Brewery in Los Angeles into the franchise. Finally in 1975 Kalmanovitz made a play for his old nemesis, the Falstaff Brewery, and on the 2nd of April he gained a controlling share.
Under Kalmanovitz Falstaff finally got their second California brewery. He moved Falstaff's headquarters from St. Louis to San Francisco and in the process laid off more than 175 of Falstaff's corporate employees, but not before cutting back their severance packages. Meanwhile the SEC opened an investigation into the Falstaff purchase and concluded Kalmanovitz provided his investors with false information in order to benefit his position. As a result Falstaff was prohibited from trading on the Stock Exchange. Then Kalmanovitz began stripping the assets from his brewing empire.
He laid off employees. He reduced advertising budgets for some brands to zero. He eliminated quality control. Years beyond the age when most people retire, Kalmanovitz, it seemed, was settling scores. One by one he scrapped his breweries and destroyed the reputation of their brands. Under his reign great regional breweries like Falstaff, Narragansett, Walter's, Ballantine, Blitz-Weinhard and Hanley closed their doors, and the brands that made them famous vanished from stores.
Paul Kalmanovitz died a wealthy man on January 29th 1987. On that day his employees toasted him with Jack Daniels, cheering "Ding dong the king is dead."
During his career in the brewery business Kalmanovitz maintained he was not Jewish and that he had no surviving relatives, but it was learned after his death that Paul had a surviving brother, Stanislas, who survived Auschwitz and was purchased out of Eastern Europe by Paul after the war in 1945.
While most of the breweries Kalmanovitz shut down never reopened, many of the brands he left for dead have been resurrected.
Learn more at the links below
Maier Brewing Company of Los Angeles, California, USA