If you’re married to Cindy Crawford, BFF’s with George Clooney, and own one of the world’s hottest liquor brands, chances are high that you’ve made some solid life choices. Meet Rande Gerber, 54 year old former model, nightlife magnate and father of two up-and-coming supermodels. Rande (pronounced “Randy”) invited us to spend the afternoon at his sprawling $60 million Malibu compound.
What’s the secret to Rande Gerber’s success? How does one obtain the pinnacle of accomplishment like this; such an inspirational, aspirational journey? Rande approaches the interview couch with drink in hand, pours me a glass of Casamigos Ańejo and begins our conversation with a tip of his glass, big smile, and opening salvo: “I have tequila when I do my interviews. Before, during and after, actually.” (Laughter.)
How did you get into bottling high-end spirits? By accident. George (Clooney) and I were spending a lot of time in Mexico, building some homes there. And as you do in Mexico, we were drinking a lot of tequila. We would have different bartenders recommend brands: “this is a great one! this is expensive!” Whatever.
George said, “You know, there’s nothing really out there that’s perfect for us. Why don’t we just make our own? As an house tequila, that we only serve to our guests when they come over. So Casamigos was never planned out as “let’s start a business.” We made it just for ourselves.
How did you come up with the name? The name of our homes was “Casa Amigos,” so we just named the tequila after our homes. We love tequila. For us, it was important to have a product that you could drink straight-up, or on the rocks. Not have to mix it. Not have to chase it with salt and lime. It goes down nice and easy and smooth. You get a pretty good buzz from tequila. It’sknown as the “happy liquor” and it keeps you awake.
And apparently, your ingredients don’t give you as much of a hangover as other liquors? It’s not the ingredients, it’s the type of agave we use. We own our agave fields, so we don’t use any pesticides. We use old fashioned methods of cooking. In our whole process, there’s nothing added. Just pure blue weber agave. So if you have great agave, and do the process correctly, you should make a tequila that won’t give you a hangover.
You revolutionized nightlife in America. What was your start? For me, the first place I opened was “The Whisky” at the Paramount hotel in New York. I wanted to design a place that felt like my living room. Just a cosy lounge, great lighting, fantastic drinks, my own music playlist; a place where people could come, hang out, and socialize. At the time, that “lounge” concept didn’t exist. I took the way I entertained at my apartment and brought it to the public.
So I opened this small space. It was about 1000 square feet. And I was fortunate to have Philippe Stark design it for me. I told him I wanted deep, comfortable couches. Mostly candlelight. Obviously you want everyone to look good, so that way they feel good and stay longer. So it really was me building a place I personally wanted to go and hang out with my friends, and it caught on really fast. Remember, at that point, it was either big nightclubs, stodgy hotel spaces, or dive bars. This was something totally different.
“The Whisky” became a big hit, really fast. I loved it. You’re in a hotel, so there’s different clientele every night. I never worked with promoters on “special nights.” I wanted every night to be a good night. I created a neighborhood feel, but in a hotel. So you had all the locals from the neighborhood going, plus all the people in the hotel, all socializing together. It was an eclectic mix of people, which is always fun, to never know who you are going to run into.
What’s your magic formula to continue launching new, hit places?
You want everyone to feel really comfortable. Not only the seating, but as mentioned, the lighting is really important. You want everyone to look good. The smells – what kind of incense or candles I burn. The staff, their uniforms. The glassware I use. The type of ice. The fresh juices. It’s truly every little detail of it.
Where did you get your vision of entrepreneurship?
My wife will say, gosh, it must be hard being you going out. You notice every. Little. Thing. My feeling is that if I notice it, then other people are going to notice it, even subconsciously. And I want everything to be just right. I do it for myself and my friends, what we authentically like. People seem to be appreciating the spaces I create.
Who inspires you? Well, my dad. My dad passed away, but he always said, “Number one: you’ve got to live while you’re alive.” He did that, and for him it was always family first.
In terms of business, I look at Richard Branson, and I like that he’s an entrepreneur who gives young people a chance. Where if you have an idea, he’s happy to give you all the support, and he also has that amazing work ethic.
How did your friendship with George Clooney develop? George and I met over twenty years ago in New York. George was shooting a movie there, and came into one of my places, and walked up to the bar. We both had a tequila together, and kind of became friends right there. Like many great stories, ours started over tequila! And the rest is history, as they say. We recently sold our homes in Mexico, but are in the process of building new ones. I’m in the process of simplifying my life. At one point I had like 30-something places going on.
How do you keep 30 businesses going at once? I had 30 really talented people working for me. I loved the creative part of it. At each location, it was my party every night. Whether I was there or not, the party went on. It was so much work. But now that I don’t have them any more, I kind of miss it.
You’re married to Cindy Crawford. How did you two meet? When did your relationship begin? Originally, Cindy and I met at the Whisky in New York, my first place. We had a mutual friend, her agent. He was getting married and invited me to the wedding. The wedding was in New York, and I wasn’t going with anyone, and Cindy wasn’t going with anyone, so my friend says, “You two should go together.” Of course I knew who she was, but I had never met her before.
So Cindy thought, maybe we will meet before, and if we get along, then we can go to the wedding together. So the night before the wedding we met, and we had a great time, so we decided I would pick her up the next day and we would go to the wedding together. And then we just became friends. We were friends for a long time. Eventually, she went her way, and I went mine, and we reconnected years later.
Your daughter is rumored to be the next super model. Yeah, she’s having fun. My son is also doing a little bit of modeling and enjoying the traveling.
How would you define success? It’s finding your passion, and doing something that you really love. Hopefully that turns into being able to make a living out of it. When I’m successful, I can wake up every morning and look forward to going into work. It’s work, but it doesn’t feel like work, because I love what I do.
How do you manage your work – life balance? Well, family is always first. That’s easy. That’s the priority. With work, it doesn’t feel like we have to balance it. It’s just our lifestyle and what we enjoy. Casamigos fits in easy with how we live.
What’s been a moment of adversity you’ve had to overcome? There’s always obstacles. I was in the restaurant and bar business. Now I’m in the liquor business. I was on the other side of the table, when people were trying to sell their brands to me. Now, here I am, I’m trying to get into a field that’s saturated with huge corporations, that are throwing a lot of money around to get their products out there. And here we are just a couple of guys, that want to share our tequila.
What type of company do you strive to create?
Most of the people who work for us have never worked in the liquor business before. We hire young, smart, creative, and passionate people. I love having that energy around me. I give them the opportunity to grow in other directions, whether it’s sales or marketing. I let them grow. It’ s a collaborative company. Nobody has their own office. People move around. We have a ping pong table, pool table, a lounge, a bar.
In terms of charities, what cause is nearest and dearest to your heart? My wife’s bother had leukemia, and he passed away at a young age. It’s a horrible disease. So, we try to get involved in as much as we can. Whether it’s through financial donations, donating the use of a bar, auctioning off things … there’s a lot you can do. We’re fortunate that we all can give our time and resources to various organizations.
As the sun begins to drop into the Pacific Ocean, golden hour washes over the California sand. Rande Gerber looks out towards the horizon. What’s next for this visionary spirit? One thing is for certain, his days will be busy. Because rule #1: you’ve got to live while you’re alive.