Julio Gonzalez Estrada, who helped make tequila a lucrative export for Mexico, died at his home in the western state of Jalisco, industry sources said. He was 83.
The brand Gonzalez Estrada created in 1951, Tres Magueyes, became Tequila Don Julio, one of the first premium tequila brands credited with popularizing the spirit outside Mexico.
After building up the reputation of Don Julio in the United States and Europe, Gonzalez Estrada sold the brand to Britain's Diageo in a transaction valued at $150 million.
The sale didn't mark the end of Gonzalez Estrada's involvement in the industry, however, as he put two of his sons in a charge of a firm making tequila under the label Reserva de los Gonzalez.
Production of tequila accounts for 35,000 jobs in Mexico, according to a group representing the industry.