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‘Pray for miracles,’ Calipari asks fans for hospitalized Alltech chief Pearse Lyons

Pearse Lyons, president of Alltech, at Alltech's Town Branch distillery on Cross Street in Lexington, Ky, on April 22, 2016.
Pearse Lyons, president of Alltech, at Alltech's Town Branch distillery on Cross Street in Lexington, Ky, on April 22, 2016. palcala@herald-leader.com

Coach John Calipari asked his nearly 1.8 million Twitter followers Monday to pray for Alltech founder and president Pearse Lyons, who has been hospitalized for months with complications from a Nov. 1 heart procedure.

The University of Kentucky basketball coach said he visited with the 73-year-old Lyons, his wife, Deirdre and their son, Mark, at UK Hospital on Monday morning.

“He’s a battler, but it’s going to take more,” Calipari said in the second of two tweets. “If it’s in God’s will, don’t be afraid to pray for miracles. What he’s done in this town and this state and what he’s done for people has been unbelievable. Let’s do our part and pray for him now.”

Earlier, Calipari tweeted, “You’re talking about a man who has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met.”

When contacted by the Herald-Leader in January, Alltech confirmed Lyons’ hospitalization, saying he was stable and in recovery. Alltech spokeswoman Susanna Elliott said Monday that neither the company nor the family had any further comment or update on his condition.

Alltech has created a place on its website (Alltech.com/wellwishes) where people can leave messages for Lyons and his family. Alltech has said the company is operating normally under the direction of Alric Blake, who was appointed chief executive officer in 2016. Deirdre, Mark and his sister, Aoife, also are among the family-owned company’s top executives.

“My father and our family have great confidence in the team that he has built to keep the business moving forward while he recovers,” Mark Lyons, Alltech’s global vice president, said in a Jan. 19 statement. “Our family has appreciated all the support and encouragement we have received from colleagues, friends and family around the world.”

Pearse Lyons, a native of Dundalk, Ireland, came to Lexington in 1976 with a doctorate in biochemistry from Britain’s University of Birmingham and a background in England and Ireland’s brewing and distilling industries. Thinking he could use his expertise in yeast fermentation to improve animal feed, Lyons created Alltech in his suburban Lexington garage in 1980.

Alltech is now a global biotech company focusing on animal and human nutrition, crop science, beer and distilled spirits. Its best-known beverage brands include Kentucky Ale, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, Town Branch bourbon and Pearse Lyons Reserve malt whiskey.

The company has more than 4,700 employees worldwide and does business in 128 countries. Through both growth and acquisitions, the company has tripled annual revenues in recent years to about $3 billion.

Alltech was the main sponsor of, and Lyons was the driving force behind, the 2010 World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park. As he prepared for that role, Lyons forged well-publicized friendships with global celebrities including Muhammad Ali and Queen Elizabeth II.

The company’s annual symposium for customers attracts 4,000 people from nearly 80 countries to the Lexington Center each May. In recent years, the symposium has focused on innovative ways agriculture can be used to solve global problems.

Pearse and Deirdre Lyons are well-known in Central Kentucky for their support of education and the arts, from science labs in parochial schools to scholarships for students in the University of Kentucky’s Opera Theater program.

Tom Eblen: 859-231-1415, @tomeblen

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