It’s not out of the ordinary to see celebs testing the waters of entrepreneurship. From George Clooney to Danny DeVito to Jay Z, actors, actresses, musicians, TV personalities and other famous figures are using their fame and fortune and turning to business. However, there’s a common trend among celebrities launching businesses, and there’s also a common trend in the type of business many are turning to: booze.
From George Clooney’s massively successful tequila brand, Casamigos, which made headlines last year for its $1 billion sale to Francis Ford Coppola’s highly regarded Napa Valley wines, these celebrities show their business savvy in the wine and spirits industry.
Here are 20 celebrities who started alcohol companies.
Proper No. 12
Conor McGregor, appropriately enough, launched an Irish whiskey. Called Proper No. Twelve, the name is derived from the MMA champion's childhood home. "I come from a suburb called Crumlin, in Dublin 12," he explains via press release. "It’s a place dear to my heart. It’s where I learned how to fight; it made me who I am today." As founder, chairman and majority owner of the company, McGregor took a hands-on approach to developing the liquor, in partnership with the world’s oldest whiskey distillery, Eire Born Spirits. "We created close to one hundred blends," he explains, "and ultimately selected what we knew was the one and only proper whiskey blend."
Ryan Reynolds is the owner and chairman of Aviation Gin. After trying the gin nearly a year ago, Reynolds decided to expand his career beyond A-list Hollywood actor into the spirits business. "Once I tried it, I knew I wanted to get involved with the company in a big way," Reynolds told Business Insider. Apparently that meant purchasing the company. While Aviation Gin says Reynolds plays a large role in the decision-making of the company, his email reply joked: “My responsibilities here at the company are vast. I'll spend my days being photographed intermittently clinching my jaw muscles while pointing at things and nodding.”
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In 2016, rapper Drake collaborated with spirit mogul Brent Hocking to create a fancy, luxury whiskey called Virginia Black Decadent American Whiskey. Like any successful entrepreneur, Drake and Hocking "looked for holes in the market," Hocking told People in a 2016 interview. "And I saw that of all the spirits out there, bourbon is probably the most clique-y. There’s not an easy drinking one.” So, the duo created an easy to drink 80-proof whiskey, which is substantially lower than your typical 95-proof whiskeys, making it stand out.
Stripper-turned-actor Channing Tatum is another famous face who’s taken a stab at the spirits industry. While on a vodka taste test with a friend, Tatum found inspiration in the vodkas produced by Idaho-based Grand Teton Distillery. Before long, Tatum partnered with the distillery in 2016 to develop his own vodka brand, Born and Bred Vodka, made from glacial water and Idaho potatoes. Available online and in some stores, the vodka is reasonably priced at $25 a bottle.
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Another hip-hop artist who doubles as an alcohol entrepreneur is Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter. Back in 2014, Jay Z purchasedArmand de Brignac (“Ace of Spades”) Champagne from New York-based wine and spirits company Sovereign Brands because simply put, it’s his favorite champagne ever. Taking full reigns of the business, Jay-Z continues to produce the champagne, releasing special and limited-edition bottles and types. Of course, the Grammy winner has expensive taste -- a bottle of Armand de Brignac is priced at $850 and there are limited amounts available at a time.
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George Clooney’s success as an entrepreneur might even surpass his success as a Hollywood actor. Back in 2013 during a trip to Mexico with close friend and ex-bar and nightclub owner Rande Gerber, Clooney and Gerber came up with the idea of a tequila that doesn’t come with a hangover. After much research, the friends launched Casamigos Tequila, which skyrocketed in success and quickly became one of the fastest-growing tequila brands in the world. In 2017, they sold the company to Diageo for up to $1 billion.
It’s no surprise that food star, restaurateur and northern California native Guy Fieri made his way into the wine business. While he’s lived in Sonoma County for more than 20 years, it was just last year that Fieri released his Hunt & Ryde wines, made from his vineyard on the Russian River and in partnership with Davis Family Vineyards. What makes his wines stand out from the saturated Napa market? “Quality, organic, and a price that’s approachable,” he said in an interview.
While bonding over their love of tequila in Cabo San Lucas in 2015, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and former Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar decided to combine regular tequila and mezcal and the results were surprisingly tasty. So what better to do than share their creation with the rest of the world? Dubbing the new liquor hybrid as “the world’s first mezquila,” Levine and Hagar launched Santo Mezquila, which is sold online and in stores for $45 a bottle.
Noam Galai | Getty Images
Ghostbusters star Dan Aykroyd is all about paranormal activity -- even when it comes to his liquor. Fascinated with the legend of the 13 crystal skulls, which carry a message of “enlightenment,” Aykroyd partnered with artist John Alexander to create a high-end additive-free vodka served in glass skull bottles, which Alexander designed. Upon launching their vodka in 2008 and calling it Crystal Head Vodka, Aykroyd explained in a video that they are putting “joy” into a “mystic symbol.” Sold around the continent, a bottle is typically priced at $60 and it might be worth it -- it’s distilled four times and filtered seven, three of which are through “layers of semi-precious crystals known as Herkimer diamonds,” according to their website.
Gary Miller | Getty Images
Going back to his Italian roots, Danny DeVito launched his own brand of limoncello, made in Sorrento, Italy, in 2007. For his entrepreneurial venture, DeVito took a fairly simple and straightforward approach, naming the sweet liqueur: “Danny DeVito’s Limoncello.” However, that’s not the best part -- the bottle’s label is scratch-and-sniff and DeVito markets it by himself, writing a special theme song that starts with: “Danny DeVito's Limoncello, it's a taste delight from this famous fellow. It's so very nice, perfect served cold on ice…” It’s available online and in some stores for around $27 a bottle.
Francis Ford Coppola
Gilles BASSIGNAC | Getty Images
Today, Francis Ford Coppola’s name is not only associated with The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, but with a major money-making wine business too. In fact, it was shortly after filming The Godfather that Coppola and his wife Eleanor bought real estate in Napa. Later, Coppola decided to make his own wine under the brand Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Not knowing anything about the business but in financial trouble, Coppola released his first wine in 1978. At first he didn't get much sales, but once Coppola became a major director, he bought more land, produced more wine and the brand grew. By 1995, Coppola revealed in an interview, that he “was making much more money in the wine business than I ever made in films.”
Ilya S. Savenok | Getty Images
From acting to dancing to singing, former boy band member Justin Timberlake decided to take on tequila a few years back. Partnering with tequila brand Sauza in 2014, Timberlake launched Sauza 901, which stands for the area code of his hometown in Memphis, Tenn. However, that wasn’t the first time Timberlake got his feet wet in the spirits business. In 2009, Timberlake launched his own tequila brand partnered with Mexico-based Tequilera Newton distillery and in 2012, was awarded first place at a spirits competition in San Francisco. So by the time 2014 came around, Timberlake was primed for his partnership with Sauza.
Steve Zak Photography | Getty Images
Former Real Housewives star Bethenny Frankel came up with the idea of a low-calorie, guilt-free option for drinking margaritas, which are typically incredibly high in sugar. In 2011, she partnered with liquor industry vet David Kanbar to launch the SkinnyGirl cocktail company, with her first product being the SkinnyGirl Margarita. Quickly selling out, Frankel expanded the products offerings to include sangria, prosecco and vodka. As one of the fastest growing wine and spirits brands in the industry, shortly after launching, Frankel sold SkinnyGirl Cocktails to Beam Inc. for an estimated $100 million. Today, she still leads the Skinnygirl brand, which has expanded to healthy foods, non-alcoholic drinks and most recently jeans.
In 2013, country star Kenny Chesney launchedBlue Chair Bay rum. While he was constantly approached by rum brands to partner up, he never liked the tastes of these brands, so he decided the best solution was to simply create his own. After this idea came to him, he got a team together and partnered with West Indies Rum distillery in Barbados. Quickly, the rum became a huge hit, sold at his concerts, online and in stores, and today comes in a variety of flavors from key lime to banana to coconut spice for around $20 a bottle.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
Jason LaVeris & Mathis Wienand | Getty Images
When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie purchased their French estate, Chateau Miraval, in 2012, the land also came with a vineyard. By 2013, the couple launched Miraval Wines, a highly-regarded French winery particularly recognized for its rosé. In fact, the first 6,000 bottles sold out in five hours. Seeing the success, Pitt and Jolie continued to release more products -- today, they offer one rosé, two whites and a red.
Sean 'Diddy' Combs
Carlos Marino | Getty Images
Back in 2007, Sean "Diddy" Combs struck a deal with Diageo to help develop the now-famous vodka brand Ciroc. Getting a 50-50 share in profits, Diddy marketed the brand, chose the stores where it would be sold and ultimately, built it up to what it is today. But making the Ciroc brand a $100 million franchise wasn’t enough and he’s since turned to tequila too. In 2014, Diddy partnered with Diageo again to purchaseDeLeon tequila.
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Celebrities are more like us than you think. They try new things, make mistakes and sometimes fail. That includes Pharrell Williams. In 2011, Williams launched the liqueur “Qream with a Q,” which was to be marketed to the female demographic. Unfortunately, things went awry, the beverage wasn’t a hit and ultimately, the plug was pulled. In 2013, Williams sued his partner Diageo for $5 million for failing to distribute the beverage to the terms of their contract.
Acclaimed folk singer and Nobel laureate Bob Dylan is another celebrity getting his feet wet in the spirits industry. Partnered with liquor entrepreneur, Marc Bushala, the two are turning an old Tennessee church into a distillery, which will produce a Tennessee straight bourbon, a double barrel whiskey and a straight rye, all under the name Heaven’s Door Spirits. As a very on-brand move by Dylan, the new whiskey brand will help complement Dylan’s Bootleg Series, which now features 13 albums and a pending trademark application for the phrase “bootleg whiskey.”
Enjoying a glass of rosé one summer evening in the Hamptons with his son and his son's roommate, rockstar Jon Bon Jovi came up with the idea to launch a rosé company. While the three laughed it off, saying they would call it “Hampton Water,” it wasn’t long before that bubby idea turned into a reality. Fast forward to today, and you can find the trio’s Diving into Hampton Water rosé available on the East Coast.
Just in time for summer, award-winning singer-songwriter John Legend launched his own rose, Côtes de Provence Rosé, under his current wine label, LVE, which he launched in 2015. Partnered with French vintner Jean-Charles Boisset, the pair have produced a chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon, a red blend and now their new rose.
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