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George Clooney has been one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood for over two decades. But the Academy Award-winning actor hasn’t made all his money just with on-screen work.

George Clooney
George Clooney | Franco Origlia/Getty Images

George Clooney’s Casamigos business deal

One of Clooney’s most lucrative ventures has been with Casamigos tequila. The Monuments Men star and his friend and partner Rande Gerber launched the company in 2013 in what seemed like a natural business deal.

According to Business Insider, Clooney and Gerber came up with the tequila idea while they were spending time at their houses in Mexico. Clooney and Gerber’s houses were located beside each other on a piece of property, which was called Casamigos. “It felt like one compound,” Gerber recalled. “We’d have a bunch of our friends there — breakfast at our place, lunch at his, dinner at ours. It felt like one big house.”

Their meals often involved sipping tequila, which is in many ways the foundation of their friendship.

George Clooney’s friendship and business relationship with his Casamigos colleagues

Clooney and Gerber first met three decades ago while Clooney was shooting one of his first films in New York.

“He was coming into one of my bars called Morgan’s at the time… so I met him at the bar over a tequila,” Gerber recalled. “He was spending three months in New York, and every night we would hang out at the bar and we became great friends.”

The two would go on golf trips around the country with other friends. “It was called ‘the golf trip,’ but we played maybe nine holes now and then,” he remembered. The pair met real estate guru Mike Meldman on one of these trips.

“A mutual friend connected us, saying we should play at one of Mike’s golf courses,” Gerber said. “He took care of us and we developed a friendship through that, then we built our homes in Mexico in Mike’s development.” He noted that “Casamigos” translates to “house of friends.”

Bottles of Casamigos añejo, blanco, and reposado tequilas
Bottles of Casamigos añejo, blanco, and reposado tequilas | Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

George Clooney created Casamigos tequila because he loved it so much

While drinkers everywhere now enjoy the taste of Casamigos tequila, Gerber said that it wasn’t always meant to be that way.

“As you do in Mexico, we would drink a lot of tequila,” the business mogul said. “We’d go out to bars and restaurants and bartenders would recommend them. Some were good, some not so good, and some expensive. There came a point where George turned to me and said, ‘Why don’t we just make our own, one that’s perfect for us?’”

“Our tequila wasn’t intended for the public; we made it strictly to drink and share with friends,” he continued. “But after word got out, we knew we had something special.”

Gerber revealed that it took over 700 different samples and formulas before the team agreed on a taste they all liked.

George Clooney
George Clooney | Getty Images for Hollywood Foreign Press Association

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George Clooney’s Casamigos sale

Casamigos grew exponentially after launching in 2013. And just four years later, alcohol giant Diageo approached the company with an offer that was hard to refuse.

According to CNBC, Diageo agreed to pay $700 million for rights to the company in June 2017, with the potential of another $300 million based on the tequila’s performance over 10 years. That sale resulted in a $1 billion payday for Clooney and his associates. As a result, Clooney was the highest-paid actor of 2018, despite not appearing in a single film.

Clooney spoke about the deal with CNBC in 2017. “If you asked us four years ago if we had a billion-dollar company, I don’t think we would have said yes,” he said honestly. “This reflects Diageo’s belief in our company and our belief in Diageo.”

“But we’re not going anywhere,” he added. “We’ll still be very much a part of Casamigos. Starting with a shot tonight. Maybe two.”