Colombian Billionaire Ardila Who Invented Fizzy Apple Drink Dies
(Bloomberg) -- Carlos Ardila Lulle, a billionaire who founded Colombia’s largest soft drinks manufacturer, died on Friday, according to La Republica, a newspaper he owned. He was 91.
Born in northeastern Colombia in 1930, Ardila studied engineering in Medellin. In his early 20s, working at his father-in-law’s soft-drinks company, he experimented with new flavors and colors before coming up with a fizzy, rose-colored, apple-flavored concoction that started outselling all of their other products.
He went on to buy the company from his in-laws and, in 1968, took over competitor Postobon SA. The pink soda became the flagship product of Ardila’s empire.
Ardila was worth about $2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He also owned sugar plantations and mills, produced ethanol, had interests in glass and metal packaging, media and car dealerships, and owned Medellin’s Atletico Nacional soccer team.
Ardila’s company produces the pink flagship Postobon soda that he invented in the 1950s, as well as a similar drink called Colombiana. It also makes fruit-flavored beverages under the Hit brand and PepsiCo Inc. products.
To shore up his soft-drinks business, Ardila began acquiring interests in sugar mills and glass and metal packaging during the 1970s. He branched out into a variety of other industries, buying television and radio network RCN, textile company Coltejer SA and now-defunct record label Sonolux.
Ardila, who remarried after divorcing his first wife, had been wheelchair-bound since an accident at one of his homes in the 1980s. He had four children.
For decades, he competed with the beer baron Julio Mario Santo Domingo, who died in 2011, for control of Colombia’s beverage, media and aviation markets.
Until 1985, Ardila shared control of the airline Avianca, with Santo Domingo. A management dispute led Ardila to sell his stake to his rival, according to “Don Julio Mario,” an unauthorized biography of Santo Domingo by the journalist Gerardo Reyes.
“In both organizations, it became an obsession to follow each other’s steps, to investigate each other’s difficulties so as to make them public and not to save a single peso to compete on new investment fronts,” Reyes wrote.
In the 1990s, the two broke a truce not to tread on each other’s central businesses, with Santo Domingo moving into soft drinks and Ardila opening a brewery. Ardila lost.
After piling up hundreds of millions of dollars in debt in the wake of Colombia’s 1999 recession, he sold his beer factory to Santo Domingo. He went on to sell other businesses -- such as Coletejer in 2008 -- to pay down debt and shore up Postobon’s finances.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.