When Pabst Brewing, the lowbrow beer house behind Old Milwaukee and Colt 45, went on the market in 2010, few expected its new buyer would have the industrialist poise or presidential hairline of billionaire dealmaker C. Dean Metropoulos.

The 68-year-old investor was one of America’s richest men, a star of the private-equity world prone to high-minded disquisitions on global sustainability. Pabst was the musty dive-bar maker of some of the cheapest beers ever canned.

But under Metropoulos’s control, the 170-year-old brewer continued its streak of remarkable growth: Sales climbed 35 percent in three years, to 350 million liters of beer a year. Then last month, Metropoulos surprised again: He would sell Pabst, four years after buying, for nearly $500 million in profit.

Metropoulos had done it again. The veteran turnaround artist has built his livelihood on scooping up crestfallen brands and preparing them for new success — or at least a profitable resale. By those conquests, he has accrued a net worth of $2.1 billion.

Dubbed “Mr. Shelf Space” for his dominance of the lucrative American grocery aisles, he has, over three decades, revived brands as distinct as Bumble Bee, Duncan Hines, Vlasic, Ghirardelli, Hungry-Man and Chef Boyardee. His masterstroke: as the savior who last year rescued Twinkies from the trash bin of history.

(Beverage Information Group)

Yet Metropoulos’s Pabst deal was different in one important way. To lead the beer giant, he tapped his sons, who, unlike their decorous father, were known largely for their fast-talking, party-boy gloss: Daren, 31, who bought an $18 million mansion from Hugh Hefner, and Evan, 33, who a decade ago told a New York Times reporter, “I’ve been with more chicks than any fat guy you know, except Pavarotti.”

Even before they unveiled any changes for the vintage brewery, the family’s legacy had some Pabst die-hards on edge. The brothers, San Francisco blogger Zach Perkins wrote in 2010, “are about as far from both hipster and blue collar (the demographics that keep PBR profitable) as they could possibly be.”

Now, as Metropoulos and his sons close their latest turnaround, many in the beer world have wondered: How did they pull it off? And what quarry are they eyeing next?

Neither Dean Metropoulos nor his sons would talk extensively with The Washington Post before the closing of the Pabst deal, planned for early November.

The Metropoulos playbook, for all its success, is deceptively simple: Buy a well-known brand that has, as Dean told Leaders Magazine, lost its “mojo;” re-energize it with new packaging, maybe, or a high-profile ad campaign; sell the newly hyped brand for a handsome profit; repeat.

The strategy works, Metropoulos says, because he can think more creatively and devote more attention to a brand’s future than its overextended conglomerate owners could. “We move quickly,” Dean told Time magazine last year. “We don’t like to be slowed down with analytics or bureaucracy.”

A farmer’s son who emigrated from Greece at age 9, Metropoulos made his first corporate deal in his 20s, buying a European maker of space heaters and air conditioners with, as he told Greek American magazine Neo, “all the money I ever had.” He later made a series of profitable acquisitions for a Vermont specialty-cheese company.

Mega-investor C. Dean Metropoulos made billions reviving stale brands. Then his party-loving sons joined in. (Handout/Handout)

As his profile grew, big investment banks and private-equity giants began trusting him with their money in hopes he’d find the next big thing. Many of the gold mines were one-time middle-America favorites largely abandoned on store shelves.

In 1996, for example, he and a Dallas buyout firm gathered $1.3 billion to buy International Home Foods, the keeper of little lunch staples such as Chef Boyardee canned pasta and Bumble Bee tuna. Four years later, they sold it to ConAgra, comfortably doubling their money.

His targets, he told Time, were mostly nostalgia brands, household names that “no matter how badly they’ve been mismanaged, cannot be killed over time.” So last year, he found a match in Twinkies, teaming up with a private-equity firm and paying more than $400 million to buy the dessert icon out from Hostess Brands’ bankruptcy.

The new owners returned the snack cakes to shelves, but they also dramatically changed production lines to enhance efficiencies. One 84-year-old bakery in suburban Chicago, which employed 400 factory workers, was reopened only to close a year later.

Despite that, “The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever,” as Twinkies’ marketing called it, tapped into a national nostalgia for unapologetic junk-food cravings and appeared to pen a happy ending on a story of big business gone wrong. It also canonized Metropoulos with a level of public goodwill most billionaire buyout kings could only dream of.

When Metropoulos bought Pabst for $250 million in cash in 2010, it appeared a similar success was afoot. The brand boasted its fast-growing flagship Pabst Blue Ribbon, regional favorites (Lone Star in Texas, National Bohemian in Baltimore, Rainier in the Pacific Northwest) and a series of vintage, smoky stalwarts (Colt 45, Old Milwaukee, Schaefer, Stroh’s, Schlitz).

“Each one of them has a story,” he said in a Bloomberg News interview. “People yearn to go back to some of our heritage.”

This time, he put his sons in charge. Metropoulos had been grooming them for years to be heirs to his creative legacy, calling them “game changers” for their youthful familiarity with social media and brand-building.

In 2000, when Evan Metropoulos was featured on MTV’s “True Life: I’m the Youngest Tycoon in the World,” he bragged of working on multimillion-dollar sponsorship deals as a college freshman between commutes to class in his Humvee. Three years later, when his father bought a $10.9 million luxury hotel called the Castle overlooking the Hudson River, he gave ownership positions to his sons, then 20 and 22.

Under the family’s ownership, Pabst shed its famous resistance to advertising with some off-the-wall attempts at viral marketing. To promote the Pacific Northwest-based beer Olympia, it offered $1 million last year to “anyone who can ensure the safe capture of Bigfoot.”

Pabst also tapped big celebrity cameos: rapper Snoop Dogg in a white fur coat promoting a potent, fruity “alcopop,” Blast by Colt 45; actor Will Ferrell in a series of inscrutable low-budget Old Milwaukee ads that aired only in tiny TV markets before taking off online.

One of those Old Milwaukee ads, which aired in North Platte, Neb., during the Super Bowl, proved wildly successful not just for the volume of public chatter it inspired, but for its frugality: While other companies paid $3.5 million for 30-second game-day spots, theirs was watched more than 3 million times on YouTube and cost about $1,500.

Sometimes the Metropoulos mojo was a little much. After he bought Pabst, Metropoulos reportedly told top staffers he wanted to pull Old Style, “Chicago’s Beer Since 1902,” out of a deal as the ballpark beer for Wrigley Field in order to spend more on promoting Old Style Light, according to the Chicago Tribune. When Cubs fans revolted, the firm changed its mind.

The takeover of Pabst was not universally loved within its headquarters, which the brothers moved from its Chicago suburb to Los Angeles, near where they lived. Dozens of Pabst employees defected, and some top executives spoke bitterly about their new owners, who they said belittled and overloaded employees with impulsive, oddball ideas.

“No one at Pabst had ever screamed obscenities into the phone before (Daren and Evan). . . . They were trying to manage through fear and aggression,” said Bryan Cook, 36, a Pabst field marketing representative who worked there six years before quitting in 2012. “They were 20-something billionaires whose dad had bought them a new toy.”

If there was tension between the brothers and their father, they’ve hidden it well. Dean Metropoulos said his sons “have been critical to me,” crediting “their energy and their different way of thinking in connecting with young millennial consumers.”

The brothers filled social media with photos of celebrities at brand parties and a blog with tributes to “awesome” old PBR ads. During a TV interview in a convenience store, Evan Metropoulos shifted a six-pack of PBR in front of a competitor in the cooler case, leading his brother to joke, “This is how you position the brands.”

Yet their guerrilla marketing did little to help some of Pabst’s flagging brands. Shipments of Old Milwaukee cases dropped 23 percent in the two years after Will Ferrell’s first ads, according to the Beverage Information Group, an alcohol-industry research firm. In 2013, two years after Snoop Dogg’s endorsement of Blast by Colt 45, the drink still sold less than Schlitz.

The brothers also struggled to match their father’s well-honed public polish. At age 25, Daren bought a sprawling manor next to the Playboy Mansion, a palatial home they later staged for Snoop Dogg’s 41st birthday party. “Let’s be honest,” Evan Metropoulos told Howard Stern last year. “I don’t have to work.”

Pabst’s pending sale to a little-known partnership — including a Cyprus-based investor, Oasis Beverages, with breweries in Russia — led some Pabst lovers to worry over a betrayal of the beer’s all-American roots. It also contradicted some of the brothers’ early public wishes for the brand.

Calling Pabst “a trophy property . . . we’ll own for the rest of our lives,” they belittled foreign beer ownership during a 2010 interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. Evan even imagined berating a non-customer: “Shame on you for drinking Bud Light! What the hell are you drinking that for? To support some foreigners?”

So why did the Metropoulos family sell? Short turnarounds are a Metropoulos trademark, and the potential for a half-billion dollars in profit probably didn’t hurt. Pabst’s brands, as with American brewers in general, also faced rising competition from craft beers, spirits and wine.

“Maybe what they decided to do,” said Adam Rogers of the Beverage Information Group, “was get out while the getting was good.”

What’s next? The Metropoulos family has been open about wanting to buy a pro football team, and their names have emerged in talks for the Oakland Raiders, the Jacksonville Jaguars and, this year, the Buffalo Bills.

Dean Metropoulos said “other deals are coming along soon enough,” but would not hint as to what. Whatever they are, his sons will likely come along for the ride.

“We make so many acquisitions,” Metropoulos told an interviewer, “it’s easy not to step on each other’s feet.”