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Her Mother Was Killed by a Drunk Driver. Now She's CEO of a Powerful Alcohol Company. Here's What Made Her 'Walk Into the Fire.' Pernod Ricard North America owns many of the world's most recognizable alcohol brands. Its CEO, Ann Mukherhee, lived through alcohol-related personal tragedies. In her opinion, that's why she's right for the job.

By Dan Bova

This story appears in the October 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of Pernod Ricard

A lot of people ask me, "Why would you be the CEO of an alcohol company?'" Ann Mukherjee says. It's a fair question. Mukherjee, 56, is the chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard North America, the wine and spirits powerhouse with brands that include Absolut, Jameson, and Avion. When she was 14, Mukherjee saw her mother killed by a drunk driver. She was also a victim of sexual abuse in which alcohol played a part. So why would Mukherjee want this job? "I know what that pain is like," she says. "I don't want others to go through it. If you really want a seat at the table to make change, you've got to walk into the fire."

Mukherjee is an Indian American woman in a white-male-dominated industry, and she credits Alexandre Ricard, chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard, for bringing her in and embracing the kinds of changes she envisioned. It is not every day you see a CEO actively warning customers about potential abuse of their products, but that's exactly what Mukherjee did with the #SexResponsibly campaign, which directly addressed the issue of consent and the role that irresponsible drinking has in sexual assaults.

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