We’ll forgive you if you read that in your best Dr. Evil impression.
Casamigos Tequila, the brand that started life as a “house spirit” to be enjoyed by George Clooney, Rande Gerber and their friends, will be purchased by Diageo for up to a billion dollars ($700 million up front, up to $300 million if future sales goals are met).
As many know, George Clooney and Rande Gerber are tequila aficionados. But what people may not know is that Casamigos was not intended to be a commercial brand.
Gerber, whose status as an elite hospitality operator spanned two decades, bonded with Clooney over a tequila 30 years ago. The two became fast friends, eventually owning vacation homes next to one another in Mexico, the compound that became known as Casamigos.
As one would expect, the two sipped many tequilas whenever they were in Mexico. Searching for the perfect tequila was a never-ending quest. One day, legend has it, Clooney suggested to Gerber that they create their own tequila, one suited to their desires.
The perfect tequila would be incredibly smooth, not burn on its way down, and not require mixing as the duo prefers their tequila neat or on the rocks. Their tequila would also have to have the right flavor and be able to be enjoyed all day without resulting in a hangover.
Over the course of roughly two years, Clooney and Gerber tried around 700 samples of tequila. They included their family members and friends in blind taste tests. Finally, a consensus was reached on a recipe and Casamigos – “House of Friends” – was no longer just a vacation sanctuary, it had become a tequila brand.
The tequila was meant as a private stock intended to be enjoyed by Clooney, Gerber and their friends and family. There was no plan to sell Casamigos Tequila to the public. According to Gerber, however, they had the distiller producing so much that they were told they’d need to obtain a commercial license.
Enter real estate tycoon Mike Meldman, friend to Clooney and Gerber who befriended the two icons when he took care of them at one of his golf courses. The Casamigos vacation compound – and birthplace of Casamigos Tequila – was built in one of Meldman’s developments.
Meldman – who has been referred to as “real estate’s party boy” – is well connected, as one would expect from a wildly successful real estate mogul. He has built amazing relationships and, according to Gerber, has a knack for brilliant marketing.
The trio found a US distributor that wanted in on Casamigos, and in January of 2013 Casamigos Tequila entered the ultra-premium, small batch commercial tequila segment. Gerber runs Casamigos full-time, and Clooney and Meldman are also hands-on in the business.
This is not a company that just attached a celebrity to the brand; the three owners are proud of what they’ve created. Gerber and Clooney taste every batch of Casamigos to this day.
While exact financials have not yet been made available, their growth has been impressive. In 2014 the brand sold 38,000 cases of tequila, and that number exploded to 80,000 in 2015. Last year, Casamigos sold 120,000 9-liter cases. The brand is expected to increase volume to 170,000 cases this year.
That’s right – the brand that sold for a billion achieved this incredible feat in just four years. Put another way, Clooney, Gerber and Meldman – the founders of a successful spirit startup – accidentally built a brand valued at $1 billion.
“If you asked us four years ago if we had a billion-dollar company, I don’t think we would have said yes,” reads a statement by Clooney. “This reflects Diageo’s belief in our company and our belief in Diageo.”
We’ll raise one to that. ¡Salud!