George Clooney is an award-winning actor, a new father and a world-class prankster.
Now he can add “start-up founder who hit the jackpot” to his résumé.
Casamigos, the tequila brand that Mr. Clooney founded with his friends Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman in 2013, said Wednesday that it had sold itself to the spirits giant Diageo. The deal values the company at up to $1 billion: $700 million in cash upfront and up to $300 million more if it hits sales targets over the next decade.
“If you asked us four years ago if we had a billion-dollar company, I don’t think we would have said yes,” Mr. Clooney said in a statement. “This reflects Diageo’s belief in our company and our belief in Diageo.”
The transaction makes Mr. Clooney one of the most successful celebrity investors around.
Hollywood stars over the years have often played venture capitalists on the side, taking stakes in an array of start-ups. Among them are Kevin Spacey and Leonardo DiCaprio, who have poured money into Casper, the mattress maker, and Justin Bieber, who has invested in Spotify. Ashton Kutcher may now be better known for his investments than for his IMDB entries, having taken stakes in what Crunchbase reckons are 61 start-ups, like Airbnb and Change.org.
Mr. Clooney and Mr. Gerber, an impresario who is married to Cindy Crawford, took a different path. Per company lore, the two friends spent many a night conducting tequila “research” at their Casamigos vacation compound on the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.
What began as their house spirit went commercial in January 2013 when the two were told that, given how much tequila they were having produced, they would need a commercial license.
They then partnered with Mr. Meldman, a real estate mogul, to begin selling their tequila nationwide.
That quickly translated to fast-growing sales. Casamigos said it sold 120,000 cases last year, and it is expected to sell more than 170,000 this year.
“What started from a friendship and an idea to create the best tasting, smoothest tequila as our own house tequila to drink and share with friends has quickly turned into the fastest growing super-premium tequila,” Mr. Gerber said in a statement.
The company’s success eventually drew the attention of Diageo, whose alcoholic wares include Guinness beer and Johnnie Walker Scotch. Among the attractions of Casamigos is the high demand for tequila, which has grown in popularity as the agave-born spirit has transcended its frat-house base.
More from: The New York Times