Managing Partners

The Managing Partners of GBS Growth Partners have almost 100 years combined experience in the food and beverage industry. Our experience combined with our Advisors, Operating Managers and Associates, encompasses all functional areas including strategic planning, sales, distribution, marketing, finance, supply chain, production, product development and private equity finance.

John Blackington has over 30 years experience, both as the owner of his own company and as a senior executive for several leading food and beverage companies, including The Coca-Cola Company. He has helped jumpstart a number of successful new brands today in critical areas ranging from helping build sales and distribution systems, expanding retail availability, developing equity strategies and sourcing capital. He has developed the ‘Smart Equity’ Project, an innovative way of partnering beverage startups with major beverage companies to create synergy and leverage. He has a passion for helping entrepreneurs reach commercial success. John received a BS and MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Jack Brennan is a seasoned global executive with over 30 years in the food and beverage industry working with large companies as well as entrepreneurial start-ups. His experience spans senior positions with The Coca-Cola Company, Host Marriot Services, and G. Heileman Brewing. Jack has strong knowledge in critical areas such as strategic planning, business development, marketing, sales, distribution, operations and financing. Jack was previously a Partner with Tatleaux Partners, a consulting firm advising clients in areas of strategic planning and financing strategies. He has been assigned- Interim CEO of several portfolio beverage companies. Jack received a BS in Business from Boston College.

Gordon Hill has over 30 years experience in the beverage industry, holding senior management positions at both The Coca-Cola Company and the Dr. Pepper Company. He is a specialist in establishing optimal routes to market via Direct, Direct Store Delivery, and Hybrid distribution systems. He has hands-on experience in distribution management, logistics, customer/channel contact development, marketing, customer relationship management, and market operational planning.  Gordon holds a BA degree from the University of Texas.

Operating Managers

Marci Lederman GM of AXS Brands – New York/New Jersey, has over 25 years of national and global sales training and management experience in Consumer Product Goods at Coca-Cola Enterprises, Glaceau and Pfizer’s (Infant Nutrition).  Marci’s background includes launching small businesses as well as global distribution for international brands.  She has expertise in leveraging relationships to build branding and brand positioning for new and existing products.  Marci received her BA in Communications from Kean University and Six Sigma Greenbelt from Villanova University.

Charlie Meyer GM of GBS AXS Brands – Florida, has over 30 years experience in the CPG industry. He began his sales career with large companies such as Clairol and Faberge. He eventually became a sales broker representing a wide variety of consumer products as General Manager (Southeastern US) for both Crane Sales and later CDZ Sales. He has deep experience in the grocery, drug, mass merchandise and convenience store sales channels. Charlie graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Science in Business.

Mike Patrick GM of GBS AXS Brands – Southeast, has over 32 years of sales, marketing and operational experience in the beverage industry. He has held leadership roles in a variety of functional areas: key account management, strategic sales planning, sales training. He also lead the retail merchandising planning and execution for ambient merchandising equipment for the entire Coca Cola system. Mike has strong retail experience relationships across the US including Kroger, Papa John’s, 7-Eleven, Speedway, Albertson’s and Marsh Stores. Mike received his BS and MS degrees from Valdosta State University in Georgia.

Dan Sweeney GM of GBS AXS Brands – Northeast, has 14 years of senior level sales management at The Coca-Cola Company.  He has also owned and operated his own multi-franchised retail, shipping, printing and logistics firm. Dan’s specialty is helping small businesses grow market share  through compelling, customer driven sales and marketing strategies that focus on products with the greatest profit potential.  Dan received his BA in Economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and his MBA from the University of Southern Illinois, Edwardsville, Il.  Dan also serves on the board of advisors for the New Center for Children, Southborough, MA and the board of directors for the human rights committee at Amego Inc., Attleboro, MA, which offers services for both children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental disabilities.

Ken Tenace GM of GBS AXS Brands – California, has over 25 years of experience helping high growth brands across the US. He began his career with Red Bull from their very early stages. He managed all key accounts in Southern California for the LA distributor of Red Bull. Ken has also held key sales positions within Neuro. Crunk Energy and Power Coco …placing their brands in distributorships and a broad range of retail channels across the country.Ken received his BS in Marketing from Cal State University, Long Beach.

Dan Wilder GM of GBS AXS Brands – Texas, has over 25 years of sales, marketing and operational success in the beverage industry. Having worked with both globally recognized brands (Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Dasani Water, ROCKSTAR Energy) as well as boutique start up brands, Dan has extensive experience in getting brands into consumer hands. He has a productive track record in the design and field implementation of successful sales strategies, marketing promotions and training applications, drawing on well-developed analytical and creative problem-solving and negotiation skills.  AXS brands provides turnkey sales and marketing services for brand owners; connecting brands with distributors, retailers and consumers in the state of Texas. Dan received his BBA from The University of Texas at Arlington.

Senior Advisors

Hal Kravitz has over 25 years experience in the beverage industry. He is currently CEO of AQUAhydrate and a member of the Celsius Board of Directors. Prior to AQUAhydrate, Hal was President/CEO of Glaceau (Vitaminwater) and has held various senior positions at The Coca Cola Company and Coca Cola Enterprises (CCE) His last position at CCE was Chief Revenue Officer responsible for the strategic planning function. Hal brings in depth knowledge of all aspects of the beverage industry to GBS. Hal earned a BS degree from the University of Georgia – Terry College of Business.

Lorne Paskin is currently a principle with Zuckerman – Honickman …the largest packaging distributor in the US. Lorne’s global supply chain experience and relationships including contract packers are a valuable asset to early stage companies. Lorne has a BS from the University of Maryland.

Advisors

John Launder is a senior executive with over thirty years of experience in a wide array of disciplines in the beverage industry. He has worked with both large companies and start-ups, and has extensive sales, operations, marketing and general management experience with multiple companies, including The Coca-Cola Company. John has started several successful businesses including Sprite Bottling of Southwest, a distributor that marketed multiple brands across Texas. In addition to being an Advisor for GBS, John is currently an adjunct instructor in Business Strategy and Planning at the University of Arkansas. John has a strong background in marketplace execution and excellence. He received his B.A. from Westminster College and a M.A. from University of Missouri.

George McQuarrie is a sales and marketing professional who has held management positions with some of America’s most prestigious consumer packaged goods companies including Procter and Gamble, The Coca-Cola Company and the Clorox company. With over 20 years in the industry, his expertise includes the development of brands in key trade channels such as food stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers, schools, and the internet. He has led high performance sales teams in developing broker and distribution networks and has developed many brands in the Caribbean and Latin American markets.

Al Racius – brings over 30 years of sales management experience encompassing all channels of trade in the food and beverage industry. His experience includes senior positions within The Coca Cola Company, Dole Foods and Crane Merchandising Systems. He has also consulted for several early stage beverage companies. His relationships and experience are particularly valued by early stage companies.

Associates

Gregg Fairley  – has over 25 years of sales and marketing experience in the food and beverage industries. He has held management positions with Proctor and Gamble, The Coca Cola Company and the DR Pepper Snapple Group. He is knowledgeable across all channels of trade and is especially expert in education, healthcare and food service.