On Wednesday, it was announced that a new company led by Jay Z had acquired Armand de Brignac Champagne — a celebrity favourite — from Sovereign Brands for an undisclosed amount.
The luxury champagne brand, more commonly name-checked in rap lyrics as “Ace of Spades” because of its logo, sells bottles for $US300 and up. A 30-liter bottle, which weighs 100 pounds and is equivalent to 40 regular bottles, can sell for over $US200,000, according to the New York Times.
But Jay Z’s involvement with the company goes back much further than this week — to May 2006, to be exact — when Frederic Rouzaud, the manager of the company that makes Cristal champagne, made an unsavory comment about his brand’s clientele.
“What can we do?” Rouzaud replied when a reporter from the Economist asked his thoughts about the popularity of Cristal among rappers. “We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business.”
Jay Z, a major Cristal client who had given the brand shoutouts in songs, didn’t appreciate the comment.
Many in the hip-hop industry viewed the comments as racist, so Jay Z called for a boycott of the brand.
Later that year, a gold bottle appeared in Jay Z’s music video for “Show Me What You Got” and with that, the ever-present Cristal was officially replaced with Ace of Spades — despite Cristal being more highly regarded among wine critics.
In “Show Me What You Got,” Jay Z sings the lyrics, “H.O.V.A., gold bottles of that Ace of Spade/Why even fool with these other guys” and in the video is seen rejecting a bottle of Cristal in favour of Ace of Spades.
Jay Z and his attractive friends then party with buckets full of the gold bottle. The entire music video reads like an advertisement for Ace of Spades.
The product placement wasn’t an accident.
As Zack O’Malley Greenburg reported in his 2012 Jay Z biography “Empire State of Mind” and later wrote on Forbes, the rapper “had a financial interest in Armand de Brignac since its inception — helping boost his net worth to $US520 million, by Forbes’ latest estimate — as the $US300-per-bottle champagne has become one of hip-hop’s favourite brands.”
In a new Forbes story on Jay Z’s champagne deal, O’Malley Greenburg writes that one of his sources previously pegged the value of the rapper’s stake in the company at $US50 million.
So what was this week’s big acquisition announcement all about?
Essentially, O’Malley Greenburg presumes, “Jay Z added to his existing share in the Armand de Brignac brand by buying out Sovereign’s stake.”
He adds, “As one source with knowledge of the situation told me, Jay Z saw a chance to purchase more of something he thought would be worth more in the future than it is today, so he did. He was investing, essentially, in himself.”
And it appears the Jay Z brand synergy is already working, with Ace of Spades now infiltrating the sports world, as well, in part thanks to his sports agency, Roc Nation Sports.
“Various sports teams, including the Dallas Mavericks and the Boston Bruins, have celebrated championships by taking big gulps from enormous metallic bottles of Armand de Brignac,” reports the NY Times. “David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox popped a 15-liter bottle of the Champagne after his team won the World Series in 2013.”
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