As soon as Andrew McMurray, chief consultant and representative of Zipz Wine, began presenting his company’s line of single-serving wines to the “Shark Tank” investors, they started comparing him to the founder of Zipz competitor Copa Di Vino, James Martin, the only entrepreneur to decline a deal on the show in two appearances.
McMurray, however, was more willing to negotiate with the Sharks and was much more comfortable in front of them. He ended up securing the biggest deal in “Shark Tank” history, landing a $US2.5 million investment from Kevin O’Leary in return for 10% equity.
“I’ve never been so excited for a #SharkTank deal!” O’Leary, a wine connoisseur and vineyard owner, tweeted after the deal premiered on national television.
Zipz sells single servings of wine packaged in sealed, durable plastic glasses. The concept has been around for several years, but McMurray tells the Sharks that the Zipz glass is engineered in a way that allows for a much longer shelf life than its competitors’ offerings and is also recyclable, resealable, and incredibly durable. The design is patented.
Part of the reason Copa Di Vino’s Martin, who’s in the same business, is remembered by the Sharks as “obnoxious” and frustrating is that he was unwilling to pursue licensing deals. Zipz Wine, on the other hand, is looking to supplement its own wine offerings with major licensing deals.
In its first 16 months, McMurray tells the investors that Zipz made a $US130,000 licensing deal with Fetzer Vineyards to get single servings of the wine in six Major League Baseball stadiums. Zipz is also in talks with three of the world’s biggest 10 wine producers, including Yellow Tail.
“In our opinion, our package is going to become to the wine industry what the aluminium can became to the soda industry,” McMurray says.
He explains that the company already has $US8.5 million invested in it over a pool of 25 investors that are primarily Wall Street types and include three owners of professional sports teams. The company has gotten its products into 1,200 US stores, including Walmart locations, and has sold $US650,000 of Zipz brand wine since its inception.
McMurray says that he’s now looking to acquire a Shark for the Zipz board and take it to the next level by securing a distribution deal with the likes of Costco.
Eventually, every Shark except for O’Leary declines from making an offer because they don’t see eye-to-eye with McMurray about the direction of the company. But O’Leary, the wine expert, has a connection with Costco, the world’s largest wine vendor. In 2013, for example, it sold $US1.46 billion worth of wine.
O’Leary tells McMurray that he’s been in talks with Costco about getting his O’Leary Fine Wines brand into its stores. He said that after first meeting with Costco’s wine representative, it took him two years to prove that his name recognition was strong enough to push bottles. But then he needed to determine a way to make the wine more affordable, since 97% of the wine sold in the US is under $US10, he explains.
He says that the current price of $US2.99 for a glass of Zipz wine is simply too expensive. McMurray says he hasn’t run into price objections, but O’Leary insists.
“Everything about selling wine in America is known by their buying team,” O’Leary says, referring to Costco. “They know everything. They don’t like this price.”
If McMurray wants Zipz to do $US19 million in annual sales through Costco, he’s got to get the retail price down to $US1.49, O’Leary says, and then he could get Zipz into the wholesale retailer. McMurray says it’s possible to reach that point through some package modification and scaling of manufacturing.
O’Leary says he’ll give McMurray the $US2.5 million for a 10% equity stake under the condition that he will be able to buy another $US2.5 million of the company at a $US25 million valuation in the event of an exit. So if a major corporation buys Zipz down the line for $US50 million, for example, O’Leary will be able to own 20% of stock valued at $US10 million for a total investment of $US5 million.
The deal will only go through if O’Leary is able to lock down a contract with Costco.
After a call with Zipz partners and some more convincing from O’Leary, McMurray says he’s on board.
As McMurray spoke with Zipz partners outside of the tank, O’Leary affirmed Lori Greiner’s assumption that he plans to use Zipz as his way of getting O’Leary Fine Wines into Costco stores at an affordable price.
Following the show’s premiere, O’Leary indicated that the Costco deal went through by tweeting this photo of a single serving of O’Leary Cabernet in a Zipz package. While it has yet to be confirmed, the “Shark Tank” deal with Zipz was contingent on a Costco contract.
O’Leary’s investment outdoes the last biggest “Shark Tank” deal, Mark Cuban’s $US2 million investment in live horror entertainment company Ten Thirty One Productions, by $US500,000. In a recent Bloomberg “Masters in Business” podcast, Cuban explains that as the popularity of “Shark Tank” has exploded over the past couple seasons, the quality of entries and the frequency of relatively big investments has increased as well.
You can watch the full episode over at Hulu Plus.
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