Peter Zwack, founder of distiller Zwack Unicum and producer of Hungary’s famous herbal digestif called Unicum, died yesterday aged 85.
The businessman, youth tennis champion and former member of the Hungarian Parliament was born in Budapest in 1927 and died in Italy.
His parents were Vera Wahl and János Zwack, co-owners of Budapest-based Zwack factory, the manufacturer and distributor of the Unicum liquor.
Peter gratuated from the Szent Imre Grammar School of the Cistercian Order in 1945 before starting his studies at the Faculty of Law at Peter Pazmany University of Budapest a year later, while simultaneously working for his parent’s factory.
He became a youth tennis champion in 1947, and at the end of the same year he left Hungary on the advice of his father.
First he went to Italy, and then he left for the United States a couple of years later, where he received the citizenship with his family.
In the first years he took minor jobs: in 1952 he was the manager of a wine and spirit import company in New Haven, Connecticut and two years later he became the co-owner of a wine import company in Chicago.
In 1956 he founded First Aid for Hungary foundation with Tibor Eckhard, former US president Herbert Hoover and Sargent Shriver Jr.
The foundation collected US$120.000 to help the refugees of the Hungarian Revolution who found shelter in the US.
In 1964 he founded an independent wine import company in New York and later he became the export director of an other spirit manufacturing company.
He returned to Europe in 1970 and settled in Florence to supervise the production and international distribution of his family’s product, Zwack Unicum.
In 1987 he was among the first businessmen who returned to Hungary right before the fall of the iron curtain and two years later he founded a joint-venture firm with Budapest Liquor Company under the name of Zwack Unicum Budapest.
During the 1991 privatisation process he founded Peter Zwack & Consorten AG with his partner Emil Underberg, redeeming his family’s property from the Hungarian state.
Following this he founded Zwack Unicum, becaming the chairman of the board of the company.
In 2008 his son Sándor Zwack, representing the sixth generation of the family, took over his positions in the management, while his father remained the honorary president of the company.
In 1990, he became the president of the Foundation for Enterprise Development in Hungary.
Between 1995 and 1999, he was president of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Hungary and chairman of the National Association of Entrepreneurs between 2003 and 2004.
Hungary’s famous herbal liqueur – Unicum
In 1990, Peter Zwack was named the first democratic ambassador of Hungary to the United States, and to achieve this, he gave up his American citizenship.
Between 1992 and 1995, he was the elected President of the Liberal party of Civic Alliance Entrepreneurs Party.
In 1994, he made an electoral alliance with SZDSZ, Fidesz and Agrarian Alliance, making him the joint MP of the four parties in Kecskemét.
In 1999, Peter received The Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (Cavaliere dell’Ordine di Merito della Repubblica Italiana).
He also received many other awards such as Entrepreneur of The Year (2002, 2004) and the Hungarian Republic’s Order of Merit (2005).
In 2008 Budapest’s city council has named Peter an honorary citizen.
One year later he was given the “Best of Budapest” Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2011 he was the recipient Ernst and Young “Entrepreneur Of The Year Role Model” award.
From his first marriage, Peter Zwack has five children, and two from his second marriage.
His wife, the english-born Anne Marshall, is actively involved in company management.
His two youngest children, Sándor and Izabella, take on the family tradition, and Izabella runs Tokaji producer Dogobó.