J. Bruce Llewellyn, Pioneering Executive
By JOHN F. MORRISON
Philadelphia Daily News
J. Bruce Llewellyn, who built the Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Co. into one of the nation's largest and most prosperous black-owned companies, died yesterday at the age of 82.
Llewellyn was the quintessential entrepreneur, with business interests all over the globe. A man of many accomplishments, he was a lawyer, onetime prosecutor in the New York District Attorney's Office, and served in the administrations of both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
He became interested in soft drinks while owner of Fedco Foods Corp., of New York, and saw his chance to get into the field when the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Operation PUSH staged a boycott of Coca-Cola because it had so few black employees and distributors.
Llewellyn teamed up with legendary 76ers star Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Philadelphia entertainer Bill Cosby to buy the local company in 1983.
As chairman and CEO, Llewellyn ramped up revenues to more than $500 million annually and greatly increased the number of minority employees.
He sold the Fedco chain of stores for $20 million and in 1985 bought WKBW-TV, an ABC affiliate in Buffalo, N.Y., and four years later he and other investors purchased South Jersey Cable for more than $400 million.
In 1988, he bought another Coca-Cola bottling company, the one in Wilmington, Del.
Llewellyn was first cousin of former Secretary of State Colin Powell. His sister, Dorothy A. Cropper, was a judge of the New York State Court of Claims.
One of his three daughters, Alexandra Marie Llewellyn, a former television reporter, is married to best-selling author Tom Clancy.
In 1998, Llewellyn and Clancy were prepared to bid on the purchase of the Minnesota Vikings, but Llewellyn became ill and had to undergo heart surgery. He dropped the idea of becoming the first African-American owner of a National Football League team.
Born in Harlem, Llewellyn graduated from City College of New York, and earned graduate degrees from the Columbia Graduate School of Business and the New York University School of Public Administration. He received a law degree from New York Law School.
He served in the Army during World War II and attained the rank of first lieutenant.
He is survived by his wife, Shahara Ahmad-Llewellyn, and two other daughters, Kristen and Lisa.