Diageo, parent company of Kentucky-based Bulleit Bourbon, is buying George Clooney’s Casamigos super-premium tequila for up to $1 billion, according to the company. The price includes an initial $700 million plus $300 million more based on increased sales over the next decade.
London-based Diageo announced the deal, which will allow the brand to expand internationally. Casamigos was created in 2013 by Kentucky native Clooney, Rande Gerber (otherwise known as the husband of Cindy Crawford) and Mike Meldman. The award-winning spirit has become a top brand in the fast-growing tequila category, selling 120,000 cases in 2016, primarily in the United States; it’s expected to top 170,000 cases this year.
The brand is built on the “house of friends” image and has done little marketing beyond a short video released in 2013. Diageo said the founders will continue to promote the brand.
“We are delighted that the founders will have continued involvement and active participation in the future success of Casamigos. This, combined with the strengths of Diageo, will ensure the continued momentum of the brand in the United States as well as realizing the growth opportunity from international expansion,” the company said in a release.
According to the Distilled Spirits Council, U.S. sales of super-premium tequila are up more than 700 percent in the United States since 2002. Besides Casamigos, Diageo already has the Don Julio tequila brand.
“We are extremely excited to team up with one of the largest, most respected spirits companies in the world,” Gerber said in the release. “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. Casamigos has always been brought to you by those who drink it, and we look forward to continuing that, working alongside the expertise and global reach of Diageo. Now even more people will be able to enjoy and experience our love and passion for Casamigos.”
The sale is expected to close in the second half of the year. Besides Bulleit Bourbon, Diageo brands include Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan, Baileys, Don Julio tequila, Tanqueray and Guinness.