- Before releasing White Claw, Canadian billionaire Anthony von Mandl built a fortune off of Mike’s Hard Lemonade – and used that wealth to create an empire of fine wineries throughout British Columbia.
- Von Mandl currently owns four wineries, including a $35 million estate that was visited by Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2016, according to Bloomberg.
- Von Mandl has been called “Tony Baloney” because of his talent for creating compelling stories to sell products, Business in Vancouver reported in 2014.
- The 69-year-old has a net worth of $3.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Billionaire Anthony von Mandl may now be known as one of Canada’s best vintners, but he owes the majority of his still-growing fortune to two beverages generally considered more low-brow – Mike’s Hard Lemonade and White Claw.
Von Mandl’s wineries have gotten him visits from Prince William and Kate Middleton and awards from Queen Elizabeth (among others), but it was the success of Mike’s Hard Lemonade (launched in Canada in 1996 and brought to the American market in 1999) that first made him wealthy.
Now, his latest venture, hard seltzer brand White Claw, has become so popular that stores are struggling to keep it adequately stocked on their shelves.
Representatives of von Mandl’s company, the Mark Anthony Group, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on von Mandl’s career, net worth, or personal life from Business Insider.
Keep reading to learn more about von Mandl's life, career, and wealth.
Von Mandl was born in Vancouver, Canada, but spent his childhood in Europe.
Von Mandl's parents were European immigrants, according to a biography on the website for one of his wineries, Mission Hill.
The family moved back to Europe when von Mandl was 9 years old, according to the biography. He later returned to Canada to attend the University of British Columbia, where he studied economics.
The winery's site does not specify which European country von Mandl's family is originally from or where in Europe he spent his adolescence.
Von Mandl first entered the alcohol business by selling imported wines from his car in Vancouver after graduating from college in the early 1970s, according to wine writer John Schreiner.
He also worked out of "a little office about the size of a cupboard in the back of a building," according to Schreiner.
Von Mandl then did an apprenticeship in wine-selling after college, which inspired him to open an importing business in Vancouver, according to his biography on his winery's website.
Through his importing business, von Mandl saved up enough money to buy his first vineyard, Mission Hill, at 31.
Von Mandl said in 2003 that, at the time, he wondered "if I had made the biggest mistake of my life" in buying the winery, Bloomberg reported.
Von Mandl also starting selling hard cider that he described as "awful" to help cover the cost of operating the winery, according to Business in Vancouver. Unlike other Canadian breweries, von Mandl did not reuse the glass bottles the cider was sold in and relied on other businesses' buyback programs to help his company meet national waste regulations. When breweries that previously used the same bottles as von Mandl stopped buying back the cider bottles, the Canadian government fined the business "several million dollars," Business in Vancouver reported.
The financial strain of the bottle fiasco led von Mandl to start brewing a beer called Clark's Great Canadian Beer, according to Business in Vancouver. Von Mandl also opened another business on Annacis Island in British Columbia focused on sustainability called Turning Point Brewery.
Von Mandl's first major success in the industry was with Mike's Hard Lemonade.
"25% of guys didn't particularly want to drink beer, but couldn't be seen holding anything else in their hand," von Mandl said in a 2006 interview, according to Bloomberg.
Mark Anthony Group calls Mike's, which was launched in Canada in 1996 and the US in 1999, "the world's first spirit cooler," according to Business in Vancouver. The company has since sold $1.6 billion of hard lemonade in the US, Bloomberg reported on November 8.
Mark Anthony Group sold the rights to its ready-to-drink brands in Canada (including Mike's Hard Lemonade) to Labatt Breweries for $350 million, or about $466 million Canadian, in 2015, but retained the rights to sell the beverages in the US market, which as of that time was "five times bigger" than sales in Canada.
Von Mandl's company is arguably now best known for the hard seltzer beloved by American "bros": White Claw.
White Claw, the dominant brand in the rapidly expanding hard seltzer category, has become the subject of a rising number of viral YouTube videos and memes poking fun at the popularity of the drink in places like fraternity houses, Business Insider's Bethany Biron previously reported.
The drink's success grew Mark Anthony Group into "America's fourth-largest beer company," the company said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg. The company also said its U.S. business has grown 85% in 2019 thus far.
White Claw is so popular that the company actually struggles to keep it in stock, Business Insider's Hayley Peterson previously reported. "We are working around the clock to increase supply given the rapid growth in consumer demand," Sanjiv Gajiwala, the senior vice president of marketing at White Claw, told Business Insider. "Despite reported shortages, we are excited to report that market share has continued to rise from 55% to 61% in just the past eight weeks."
A group of Business Insider reporters sampled White Claw and its strongest competitor, Truly, in September and "couldn't deny that Claw is the law."
The company owes its success to von Mandl's marketing prowess, his former business partner told Business In Vancouver.
Von Mandl is a "master" at creating compelling stories to bolster brands, Nick Clark told Business in Vancouver in 2014. Clark, von Mandel, and David Simms purchased their winery, Mission Hills Family Estate, together in 1981, and Clark remained an investor until 1988, Business in Vancouver reported.
Von Mandl named the company "Mark Anthony" because the name sounds "vaguely familiar" to most people, and not after a specific person, according to Business in Vancouver.
"My kids, who knew the difference between fact and story, affectionately labeled him as Tony Baloney," Clark told Business in Vancouver.
His former business partner also claims that Von Mandl isn't known for his people skills.
The billionaire businessman is "unrelentingly impatient with people not equal to his station in life or stature," Clark told Business in Vancouver.
Mission Hills had a "constantly revolving door of staff" during the years Clark worked there with von Mandl, Business in Vancouver reported.
Von Mandl is very confident that the White Claw craze isn't just a passing fad.
"The consumers flocking to White Claw today are not going to magically return to the mega-beer brands of yesterday," von Mandl said at a beer wholesalers convention in September, Bloomberg reported.
Von Mandl also estimated that White Claw will make Mark Anthony Group "close to $4 billion" in revenue in 2020, according to Bloomberg.
Von Mandl used the fortune he initially made from Mike's Hard Lemonade to further his growing empire of fine wineries in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada.
Von Mandl's wineries are credited with having "transformed the wine industry in Canada," according to the website of Canada's Governor General.
Von Mandl showed Prince William and Kate Middleton around one of his wineries in 2016.
The visit was a part of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's 2016 Commonwealth tour, according to Bloomberg.
Mission Hill is a popular tourist destination in British Columbia, according to Business in Vancouver. Its restaurant was named one of the top five winery restaurants in the world by Travel + Leisure in 2009.
The magazine called Mission Hill "one of the most impressive wineries anywhere," citing the estate's amphitheater, 12-story bell tower, cooking classes, and the Chagall tapestry in the private dining room.
The property is worth $35 million, and von Mandl has invested over $26 million in it, according to Travel + Leisure.
William and Kate's visit wasn't the first time that von Mandl has received attention from royalty.
Von Mandl was awarded medals during Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, according to Canada's Governor General.
He also received the Order of Canada, the country's second-highest honor, for his contributions to Canada's wine industry in 2016, according to Canada's Governor General.
Von Mandl's wife, Debra Gibson von Mandl, is a licensed acupuncturist.
Debra, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, has practiced acupuncture in Vancouver since 1996, according to her website. She uses Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique to treat patients with severe allergies with a 90% success rate, she told The Globe and Mail in 2002.
The couple has a son named Anthony Sebastian, according to von Mandl's biography on his former primary school's website.
The family lives in Vancouver's exclusive Point Grey neighborhood, which several other billionaires call home.
In 2017, The Globe and Mail's Brent Jang described the area as "a scenic street where many of the most expensive properties in British Columbia are located."
The von Mandl's neighbors include billionaire philanthropists Hassan and Nezhat Khosrowshahi, the aunt and uncle of Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, according to The Globe and Mail. The Khosrowshahis' property is worth $45.7 million, The Globe and Mail reported in 2017.
A 21,977-square-foot home on the von Mandl's street - 4743 Belmont Avenue - is currently on the market for over $43 million, according to Sotheby's Realty. That home features a private elevator, indoor pool, wine cellar, library, and 1.23 acres of land, the listing shows.
Billionaire Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson lives in the most expensive house in British Columbia on a nearby street, according to The Globe and Mail.