- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Joseph Coors, the Colorado brewer and hero of the conservative movement who used his money and influence to support President Reagan and start the Heritage Foundation, died Saturday in Rancho Mirage, Calif., after a battle with cancer.

He was 85.

Mr. Coors, whose grandfather founded the Colorado-based Adolph Coors Co. in 1873, was a successful businessman who became a linchpin in the conservative movement. Admirers called him a "visionary."

He was a friend of Mr. Reagan's and helped finance his political career, serving on the "kitchen Cabinet" of advisers who backed Mr. Reagan from his California governorship to the White House.

In the early 1970s, after reading an article and hearing a similar speech imploring businessmen to become more politically active, Mr. Coors decided to invest in an idea promoted by Edwin Feulner and Paul M. Weyrich, then two young congressional aides in Washington. Mr. Coors gave $250,000 to start the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

"He was a visionary who could see ahead and who was willing to invest in entrepreneurs here in Washington when it wasn't very popular," said Mr. Feulner, who is currently the president of Heritage.

"I think it's fair to say that there would not be the modern conservative movement without Joe Coors," said Mr. Weyrich, the first president of Heritage. Today, Mr. Weyrich heads up the Free Congress Foundation, which Mr. Coors also helped him start.

"He took a chance on a number of us who were pretty young and real upstarts, and he stuck with us for many, many years," Mr. Weyrich added. "He was a remarkable individual. He never asked for anything."

Mr. Weyrich said the conservative movement grew, in part, because Mr. Coors' support allowed them to do all sorts of outreach.

"Back at that stage we used to joke that all the conservatives could meet in a phone booth," joked Mr. Feulner. "Now we're the ruling majority."

Mr. Coors also was a visionary in other areas as well, said Lee Edwards, a distinguished fellow in conservative thought at Heritage who interviewed Mr. Coors in the mid-1990s.

In the early 1970s, Mr. Coors founded Television News Inc., (TVN), a television network designed to counter what he saw as liberal bias in the media. The company closed a few years after its founding because cable and other needed technology was not yet available. But the publicist whom Mr. Coors had hired to be news director was Roger Ailes, who went on to become head of the Fox News Channel.

Mr. Coors was "a very tall, quiet man," who was "very modest" about his accomplishments, and was "just a wonderful, wonderful guy" who "believed in … the power of conservative ideas," said Mr. Edwards.

He was a director of the Coors Co. until three years ago and had served as chief operating officer from 1980 to 1988. Currently, his brother Bill is the vice chairman of the company and his son, Peter Coors, is chairman. W. Leo Kiely III is the company's president and chief executive officer.

Coors beer was sold in just 11 Western states until the 1970s, when it expanded due to competition from other brewing companies like Anheuser-Busch. Today, Coors is the third-largest brewer in the United States.

Mr. Coors is survived by his wife, Anne, and five sons, Peter, Joseph Jr., Jeffrey, Grover and John; 27 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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