Donald and Nancy Panoz are the visionaries and founders of Château Élan in Braselton, Ga., USA. The luxurious resort is the first winery of its kind in the region since Prohibition. With numerous expansions over the past 14 years, Château Élan is now an award-winning winery and resort with an inn, conference center, four golf courses, eight restaurants, European-style health spa, residential community, wine market, equestrian show center and tennis center.
The couple met in West Virginia when Don was attending Greenbrier Military Academy. They both served their country in Japan, Don as an Army Intelligence Officer, and Nancy as a Counter Intelligence Secretary, but neither of them let the rigorous details of the Army, or the demands of raising children, dampen their entrepreneurial spirits. A love of business and creative spirit would lead the Panoz’s into things many thought impossible.
After their return to the U.S., Nancy worked and raised their five children while Don studied business at Duquesne University, and operated two drug stores in Pittsburgh.
Don then formed Mylan Pharmaceutical Corporation, a pharmaceutical packaging company now known as Mylan Laboratories. As the youngest president of a pharmaceutical company in the United States, Don took on industry giants Eli Lilly and Parke Davis in the difficult but lucrative, production of gelatin capsules. In doing so, Don established Mylan Laboratories as an innovative leader in the field of pharmaceutical delivery.
In 1969, the Panoz family moved to Ireland where they formed Elan Corporation, which has become an industry leader in drug delivery products and technology. Elan was the first Irish company to have a public offering in the U.S. market. Today, Elan is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has developed four of the top 100 products in the industry. The company holds more than 100 world-wide patents with one of the most recognizable being the nicotine patch which has helped millions of Americans stop smoking.
The Panoz’s decided to bring the same discipline and high standards that created Elan Pharmaceuticals to the wine industry. The couple visited Georgia frequently since Elan had a research laboratory in Gainesville. During one of their trips, Don and Nancy tasted Muscadine wine, made from indigenous Muscadine grapes. When they asked why no one had ever grown vinifera grapes in the region, they were told, “It can’t be done.”
Now, Château Élan is a 3,500 acre winery and resort in the hills of north Georgia, thirty minutes north of Atlanta. The wines of Château Élan have won hundreds of national and international awards.
Dr. Panoz has recently turned his interest to the world of professional car racing. As owner of Panoz Motor Sports and the American Le Mans Series, he is on the way to creating a new racing dynasty.
Mrs. Panoz is a director of Fountainhead Development Corporation, The Legends, and Château Élan. She serves on the board of directors for Wesley Woods, Inc.
Dr. Panoz was a member of the AMEX International Committee, a Director of Portuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, Ireland, a Patron of the Irish America’s Cup and a Managing Trustee Board member of the University of Georgia. Don also travels between the Élan operations in Ireland, Europe, the Pacific Rim, and in his spare time, he can be found on one of his current race tracks, Road Atlanta, Mosport in Canada, or Sebring, Florida.
Even though the couple has achieved more success in the business world than most people could ever imagine, the Panoz find that their ultimate reward is the five children and ten grandchildren they cherish.