Film star George Clooney and his business partners, Hewlett native Rande Gerber and real estate developer Mike Meldman, have sold their Manhasset-based tequila company for a potential $1 billion.
The London-based alcoholic-beverage conglomerate Diageo announced Wednesday that it had acquired the trio’s four-year-old Casamigos Spirits for $700 million and a potential $300 million based on performance over 10 years. “This reflects Diageo’s belief in our company and our belief in Diageo,” Oscar winner Clooney, 56, said in a statement. “But we’re not going anywhere. We’ll still be very much a part of Casamigos. Starting with a shot tonight. Maybe two.”
Casamigos “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,” said Gerber, a 1980 Hewlett High School graduate and founder of the bar and restaurant company Gerber Group, in a statement.
Gerber told CNBC last year that he and Clooney are tequila aficionados and worked with a distiller in Jalisco, Mexico, to develop a tequila solely for private use. But, he said, the distiller eventually “called and said, ‘Hey guys, we have a little problem: In the past two years, we’ve been sending you about a thousand bottles a year. Either you’re selling it or you’re drinking way too much — either way, we can’t keep calling it samples. You guys have to get licensed and do this right.’ ”
The brand went on to win numerous awards and sold 120,000 cases last year. It is expected to sell 170,000 by the end of this year, according to Diageo, whose brands include Johnnie Walker, J&B and Guinness. Casamigos is the company’s largest acquisition since its $3.2 billion purchase of United Spirits Ltd. in 2014.
Gerber, the son of New York Jean Company founder and Oceanside High School alumnus Jordan Gerber, has been married to former model Cindy Crawford since 1998. The couple have two children. Meldman is founder and CEO of the Arizona-based Discovery Land Company.