Born and raised in New York, Lee F. Hager joined Southern Wine and Spirits in 1978http://www.southernwine.com/Portals/0/SWS_Images/Leaders/lee_pic.jpg as Assistant Controller at the company's Southern California division. Prior to joining the company, Mr. Hager worked in a national public accounting firm in Florida, one of whose clients was Southern Wine & Spirits of America. Immediately after being hired by Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Mr. Hager was asked by senior management to relocate and begin working in the company's Southern California office.

From 1981 to 1985, Mr. Hager was the State Controller of California. It was in that position that Mr. Hager says he "really gained a great deal of experience—not only in finance, but also in distributor operations." From 1986 to 1994, Mr. Hager was National Vice President of Finance. In 1994, Mr. Hager became an officer of the company and acquired his current range of corporate responsibilities.

A graduate of the State University of New York in Buffalo, Mr. Hager gained a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting, with a minor in economics. Mr. Hager recalls that when he joined Southern Wine & Spirits of America, "The Company was still a year away from entering the Northern Californian market." At the time he joined the Southern California operation, "Southern was a small wholesaler located in North Hollywood."

Mr. Hager lived and worked in the California market for eight years, participating, he says, "in the division's exceptional growth, during which time we transformed the division from a regional wholesaler to a statewide operation."

Subsequently, as Southern Wine & Spirits of America grew, so, too, did Mr. Hager's financial, administrative and operational responsibilities. Mr. Hager is especially grateful to have worked under many of the Company's founding sales and financial executives—in particular its original controller, Herbert Joseph, from whom Mr. Hager learned many important operational lessons.

Recognizing Southern Wine & Spirits of America's leadership role in the distribution business in the United States—in particular in the realm of computer and online technology—Mr. Hager says, "We believe the general acceptance and increased use of our website has paralleled the acceptance of all web-based transactions in the general consumer-based economy. We definitely have strived to be a technological innovator within our industry. Whether it concerns web-based selling, hand-held ordering devices or telemarketing sales capabilities, my job today is to ensure that we, as a company, continue to deliver first-class service to all our customers as we integrate new technology into our proven business processes."

In terms of the pursuit of backroom efficiencies and customer and supplier service excellence, Southern Wine & Spirits of America has transformed its formerly decentralized back-office operations into the Business Solutions Group (BSG) and Supply Chain Management (SCM) Group, based in Miramar, FL. Of this
multi-year, multi-phased initiative, Mr. Hager says, "The efficiencies gained are passed directly through to our customers, suppliers, operating divisions and personnel alike.  While we tailor our marketing and selling approaches at the local level, we have found that service support quality and efficiency are best served through the center-led, standardized approach we have employed over the last decade."

Assessing Southern Wine & Spirits of America's potential in the years ahead, Mr. Hager says, "We are truly a family of professionals who take great pride in what we do every single day. We have a depth of organization and skill sets that create a consistently high-level of service quality to our customers, our suppliers and our employees that is impossible to measure. This service leadership is our real competitive advantage—and motivates us year in and year out to continuously improve upon this performance.  We have never and will never rest on our laurels."