Larger-than-life boxer Conor McGregor made $US100million during his sporting career, but his booming whiskey brand – Proper No. Twelve – recently doubled that in value.
In April, Mexico’s Becle, the company behind the popular Jose Cuervo tequila brand, completed the exercise of its option to acquire an incremental 29% stake in the equity interests of EBS and, as a result, achieved a cumulative 49% stake in the business.
Based on the amount paid for shares, the sale valued the Irish whiskey brand at roughly $US235million (around $AU327million).
McGregor announced his plans to launch an Irish whiskey brand in June 2017, during a press conference following his bout with Floyd Mayweather – the second-largest-selling pay-per-view event in American sporting history. He turned up with a bottle of whiskey in hand, raised it and said: “Notorious Irish Whiskey: Coming soon.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
McGregor’s whiskey hit the market a year later in Ireland and the US, rebranded as Proper No. Twelve.
McGregor celebrated St Patrick’s Day last year by launching his Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey in Australia.
The boxer explained: “Many ask where the name Proper No. Twelve comes from. I was born and bred in the Dublin suburb of Crumlin, Dublin 12 – this is a proper Irish whiskey and being a ‘Dublin 12 Man’ we named my brand Proper No. Twelve. My success can be traced from the lessons I learned growing up in D12, the values of loyalty and hard work. It is a brand made for all, not the select few. ”
Proper No. Twelve is owned by Eire Born Spirits (EBS), a company co-founded by McGregor, his manager Audie Attar, and Ken Austin, a former E&J Gallo and Seagrams executive.
Austin’s previous celebrity successes include founding Tequila Avíon with rap star Jeezy in 2013 and teaming up with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to create Teremana tequila, which launched in the US in March 2020.
Austin decided McGregor was the perfect partner for his foray into the booming Irish whiskey sector.
“If you were going to look up Irish whiskey in the dictionary, there would be a picture of Conor McGregor there because he epitomizes what being Irish is,” Austin said.
It doesn’t hurt that McGregor has a huge social media presence, with 36.7 million Instagram followers and another 8.2 million Twitter followers, which he frequently uses to promote his brand. He also continues to tout his whiskey regularly during press conferences and TV appearances.
And the only way is up for Irish whiskey and Proper No. Twelve.
According to IWSR data, the Irish whiskey category ended 2019 with a value of $1.5 billion. Between 2014 and 2019, volume sales experienced a compound annual growth rate of 14%.
The US demonstrated a particular penchant for Irish whiskey in 2019, with volumes up by 8.6% – outpacing sales of American, Canadian and Scotch whiskies.
The most popular Irish whiskeys globally in 2019 were:
- Tullamore Dew
- Proper No Twelve
Jameson shipped 8 million cases in 2019, an increase from the 7.2 million it shipped in 2018, while Proper No Twelve sold 213,800 cases, an increase from 38,200 in 2018.
McGregor’s Irish whiskey “leapfrogged” a number of other longtime Irish whiskey brands – Paddy (185,200 cases in 2019), Kilbeggan (133,100 in 2019), Power, Teeling, Redbreast, and The Dubliner to the number four spot.
“We’re at the tip of the iceberg still,” Austin said.