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As part of Camarena Tequila’s Step Up To The Plate promotion, Mike had the opportunity to enjoy a night at the ball park – with tequila! He tells us all about the big event with this multi-media feature article.
Described as a “deeply personal business narrative,” the story centers around the development from the ground up of Patrón tequila, a “brand that single-handedly changed the face of the liquor industry,” by its co-founder, Martin Crowley, and as told by his then young and lively life partner, Ilana Edelstein.
Tequila is by far my spirit of choice. I’ve loved it for decades, and I still love learning by tasting more tequilas and by researching its fascinating history. That’s why when the offer to preview Ilana Edelstein’s new book, The Patron Way, came across my desk, I jumped at the opportunity.
I wasn’t fooled by the above description, however. In fact, I’m not even a fan of Patron Tequila.
Drinking it is an unsettling experience for me, though I do understand the big batch Patron Tequila available today is a different product than the one the partners Martin Crowley and Jon Paul DeJoria fell in love with years ago. I simply wanted to learn about the early days of one of the biggest brands ever.
A Lifestyle Business
Yes, business is a key player in this story. At a time when the term “Lifestyle Business” had yet to be coined, Patron was just that. Ilana Edelstein and Martin Crowley, along with J.P. and Eloise DeJoria, lived that lifestyle and created the Patron brand around it.
The DeJorias had money and plenty of Hollywood connections. Martin Crowley had hustle and Ilana had an instinctive, albeit racy, style. The combination was magic.
Great juice, sexy presentation of the distinctive bottle with the green ribbon, and even sexier presenters in a time when using gorgeous women to promote liquor was a novel idea.
Today, products and celebrities are branded intentionally and strategically. By contrast, the Patron brand grew organically through the millionaire lifestyle lived by J.P. and his gorgeous wife, Eloise, and guided by the hustle and determination of the rough-around-the edges Martin Crowley and his bombshell lover, Ilana Edelstein, who softened his brash approach to business.
Having a background in branding and marketing, I understood all that. I’m a novelist with a degree in business who pays her rent with marketing work.
It made perfect sense – top end lifestyle and top shelf tequila. But, what captivated me was the love story.
The Patron Way is the tragic story of a thirteen-year love affair between Martin Crowley and Ilana Edelstein that ended when ego, greed, and lawyers got in the way.
Ilana was making a great living as a financial advisor to school teachers. When Martin asked her to give it all up and work with him full-time on Patron, she didn’t hesitate to accept. He didn’t offer her shares, a paycheck or a wedding ring, only the opportunity to continue their love affair living the glamorous lifestyle they both enjoyed.
She was madly in love with him and, by all accounts, he with her. What more could two lovers want than a business they could build together? Why wouldn’t she accept?
It all went well for a loving couple that seemed to complement each other perfectly. A beautiful home, parties, A-list social circles, yachts and island vacations. Until Patron became so in-demand that it caught the attention of Big Liquor.
The book blurb describes it as an “astonishingly competitive and sometimes cutthroat industry.” Cutthroat it was.
Lawyers swooped in and worked on Martin’s insecurities. His health was failing due to advanced heart disease and he and Ilana weren’t married. It doesn’t take a genius to see how lawyers could play that to their advantage.
What if she broke up with him and filed a palimony lawsuit? If he’d known the history of Marvin vs. Marvin, Martin Crowley wouldn’t have given it a second thought, but lawyers can make persuasive arguments.
What if she tried to take half of his half of the company? What if she sued for unpaid wages? Did she have a contract? Did they have an agreement?
Martin follows the questionable advice of lawyers, enacted by an even more questionable court system. This is where the glitter fades and the story turns ugly.
He breaks up with the woman he loves, the woman he can’t bear to sleep without at night. Hearts break. There is a long drawn out trial, her reputation is smeared and yet, he continues to watch her, to stalk her, to love her, and she still loves him.
He moves to a house on Antigua and shelters his money. A new will is drawn up. Though he assures her she’ll be fine, he promises her nothing.
At the end of the story, Ilana is rebuilding her life. All those years of love for Martin and Patron earned her nothing in the way of financial security. Though she is still loyal to the Patron brand and loves Martin dearly, she realizes she must press on. Martin’s story doesn’t end as well.
His financial future is secure with Patron, but when he has a heart attack at the top of the stairs in his beautiful home in Antigua, the lawyers that he depended upon to protect his interests were nowhere to be found. He died alone, at the bottom of the stairs, surrounded by his wealth. His body was found the next day by his staff.
My heart ached for Ilana, for her hard work, love and devotion, for what she’d gone through with the breakup and then what she must have felt when she learned how the love of her life had died.
Though I may never be a fan of Patron Tequila, I can honestly say The Patron Way by Ilana Edelstein was a delicious cocktail of innovation and inspiration with a twist of tragedy for a bittersweet finish.
The Patron Way is available at Amazon.com and other booksellers in both ebook and hardcopy.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) has shocked the duty-free industry by proposing a global ban on duty-free liquor sales, a business which was worth $6.3bn last year.”
The proposal to slow down alcohol consumption was actually published in December of last year, but will finally get onto the WHO’s Executive Board agenda between January 18-23, 2010. The Board is made up of health ministers from 34 leading countries, and if it approves the proposal, it will be presented to the WHO’s full annual General Assembly in May 2010.
Keith Spinks, secretary general of the European Travel Retail Council (ETRC) believes that the proposal will pass the Executive Board and into the General Assembly that is made up of 193 governments, and warns, “If this goes though, it will be a disaster for the industry.”
Should the World Health Organization ratify this proposal, there is an upside. According to Spinks, this proposal on liquor would not be “binding.”
“It is going to be up to each member country to decide whether to implement the proposal or not.” But, he adds, “My fear is that some countries will and some won’t, leaving us in a big mess.”
In 2005, the WHO tried to ban duty-free tobacco sales through its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The FCTC was ratified by 165 countries worldwide, but has yet to be implemented by any country.
A quick review of the members of the World Health Organization may give a clue as to why.
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Tourism
All countries which are Members of the United Nations may become members of World Health Organization by accepting its Constitution. So, which countries are members?
Australia, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland, UK, and the USA, to name just a few. Most all of these countries have one or more international airports with duty free stores selling among other things, spirits, cigars, and cigarettes.
Not only do most of these member countries tout tourism as a major industry, but many also have their signature spirits (and cigars, in some cases) that define them. Examples are rum from Barbados, limoncello from Italy, and of course, tequila from Mexico.
Where duty free merchants pay inventory/business or other taxes, customers usually pay none. For these countries, tourism, and the profit made at duty free shops from alcohol and tobacco sales, is directly related to each other.
How much damage could the enforcement of this proposal do?
WHO vs. Patrón
As stated above, duty-free liquor sales from last year amounted to $6.3 billion in 2008. That accounted for 17.2% of the total global liquor business according to the Drinks International article.
In the April 2008 issue of Impact Magazine, it states that Patrón tequila was also penetrating the travel retail sector overseas, long a key channel for high-end spirits but one in which tequila was underappreciated. Patrón was aggressively growing its brand by sampling at very visible public relations events in key cities such as London, Athens, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney, all whose countries are members of the World Health Organization.
The Patrón Spirits Company, producers of Patrón tequila, claim on their website to be in over 100 countries and islands worldwide. Given that there are only 193 members of the WHO, the chances are good that Patrón is available in the duty free stores of most of these member countries.
Assuming that the same 163 countries that ratified the duty free tobacco ban in 2005 also decided to ratify—and enforce–the duty free alcohol ban, the results could be devastating not just for Patrón, but also for Sauza, Brown-Forman (El Jimador brand), and Jose Cuervo, as well as all spirits suppliers, duty free retailers, and airports.
While it seems likely that the World Health Organization’s Executive Board will ratify the alcohol ban proposal, it seems unlikely that any countries will actually enforce it.
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