Mr. Clooney and Mr. Gerber, the entertainment impresario who happens to be married to Cindy Crawford, took a different path. Per company lore, the two friends spent many a night conducting tequila “research” at their Casamigos vacation compound on the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.
What began as their house spirit went commercial in January 2013 when the two were told that, given how much tequila they were having produced, they would need a commercial license. They then partnered with Mr. Meldman, a real estate mogul, to begin selling their tequila nationwide.
That quickly translated to fast-growing sales. Casamigos said it sold 120,000 cases last year, and it is expected to sell more than 170,000 this year.
“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,” Mr. Gerber said in a statement.
The company’s success eventually drew the attention of Diageo, whose alcoholic wares include Guinness beer and Johnnie Walker Scotch. Among the attractions of Casamigos is the high demand for tequila, which has grown in popularity as the agave-born spirit has transcended its frat-house base.
Sales of tequila increased 7.4 percent last year, according to data from the research firm IWSR, outpacing virtually every other hard liquor category. Upscale brands have shown the most growth, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, with sales of “high-end” brands rising 292 percent from 2002 to 2016 and “super-premium” brands climbing 706 percent during that period.
Diageo already owns the Don Julio brand. But the company’s executives argued that they could take Casamigos to even greater heights by selling it beyond American shores.
“It supports our strategy to focus on the high-growth super-premium and above segments of the category,” Ivan Menezes, Diageo’s chief executive, said of the deal. “With the global strength of Diageo, we expect to expand the reach of Casamigos to markets beyond the U.S. to capitalize on the significant international potential of the brand.”
It was not clear how much each of the Casamigos founders would take home from the sale. But Mr. Clooney, who has two new reasons to welcome the cash — twins born this month — said he and his co-owners would remain involved with the brand in some capacity after the transaction closes, by year’s end.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he said. “We’ll still be very much a part of Casamigos. Starting with a shot tonight. Maybe two.”