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In 2006 Brett Barish, the CEO of Sovereign Brands, teamed up with Jay-Z and launched Armand de Brignac Champagne (Ace of Spades).
Jay-Z endorsed Ace of Spades when he decided it was time to do away with Cristal Champagne for derogatory comments.
He put Ace of Spades in the forefront of his music videos, and the brand immediately took flight after its video debut in "Show Me What You Got".
A couple of years later, I took a leap of faith and called the Sovereign Brands head office to see if they had an interest in teaming up with Kolonaki Group to represent Ace of Spades in Canada. Luckily for me, Scott Cohen, Vice President of Operations, took my call. Slightly reluctant at first as I had never represented a Champagne brand, but my brazenness won him over. I spent a few hours jumping for joy, planning and strategizing my next steps. Years later, I came to realize that this was something much bigger than I ever expected.
It was not long before I meet Mickey Manish, then owner of Time Nightclub in Toronto. He ordered a whole case of Ace and said, see you on Sunday. I put on my Sunday's best and headed to Time Nightclub, not knowing what to expect. I was seated in a booth with people I later became friends with, Alex "Ace" Champion, Dan Kabbi, Amer, and the late Tasso Levendi. I watched as Ace of Spades came out from behind closed doors with sparklers and bottle service staff walking to our booth, and the whole club watched in awe. I remember thinking to myself, "if Mickey is buying Ace for $300, he must be selling it for $900". My heart stopped when the fourth bottle came out. Luckily for me Mickey & the gangs generosity was appreciated. It was not until the next day that I realized what the DJ meant when he screamed on the microphone, "Time on Sundays means no work on Mondays."
That night was all I needed to ensure I was on the right path. Day by day, week by week, month by month, the brand grew bottle by bottle, case by case. One Nightclub after another started to carry the product, and we watched Ace become embraced by everyone in the 6ix. The cities hottest venues like EFS, Lost, Cabana Pool Bar, Muzik, Shangri-La Hotel, just to name a few. All the cities top influencers like Matt Mogal, Junior Jones, Olaf HD, DJ Charlie B just to name a few embraced Armand de Brignac as much as they did me.
The support from everyone was appreciated, so much so, we decided to take Mickey Manish, Steve Georgiev and more to NYC to watch a New York Knicks game, compliments of Brett and Scott.
Nov 2014 Jay-Z purchases the remaining stake in Armand from Sovereign Brands. I didn't know what my future with the brand looked like, but thankfully, I was introduced to Sebastien Besson, CEO of Armand de Brignac.
He helped guide me during the seamless transition and set all new heights for the Champagne. For that, I am very grateful. Our first LCBO listing was secured, and we watched as sales hit all-new levels. By year two in the LCBO, we had already doubled Cristal's sales.
This lead to us receiving the Elsie Award from the LCBO.
A couple of years later, Sebastien secures a distribution deal with a national importer in Canada, and our fantastic run with AdB came to an end.
All I can think about is how much gratitude I have for MANY things that this product brought me. It changed my life professionally and personally. It helped me build my company, and it set us up for multiple new brands like Belaire Rosé, now the #1 selling sparkling Rosé in its category.
Today Jay-Z sold 50% of the company to LVMH, the leader in global Champagne distribution. Congratulations to Jay-Z and his team for pushing the envelope once again.
Today is also the day that proves vision paired with hard work and execution, plus a little bit of luck will set you apart from everyone else, and your dreams can come true.
“A wise man once told me luck isn’t some mystical energy that dances around the universe randomly bestowing people with satisfaction and joy, you create your own luck.” – Jay-Z, Law Of Attraction
Steve, your passion, sincerity, honesty, drive and focus are some of your best characteristics. Congratulations! God bless you! May your path continues with sparkling successes!