Good Insight from "Bobby G"

Alright, in a BevBlog first, I have to disagree with my colleague, Matt Casey, and his post on the series “Bobby G: Adventure Capitalist” which features Clearly Canadian as an integral part of the show.

I, unlike Matt, am completely hooked on the show, having taken in 4 episodes in barely 48 hours. While I do enjoy the super sweet theme song (“Bobby G…Bobby G….He’s got more money than you and me”) and watching Bobby’s personal endeavors (checking out a $14 million yacht or skiing at Aspen), it’s really the behind the scenes view of a flailing beverage company that keeps me glued to my chair.

Quick background: Bobby G, who runs his own BG Capital Corporation (http://www.bgcap.com if you are interested), is invested in a variety of companies, which, aside from Clearly Canadian, you’ve probably never heard of. Most are pretty tame, focused on his team’s background in real estate, although there’s also the bizzaro Neptune Society, which is has a reef off the Miami coast for underwater placement of cremated remains. So far, the episodes seem to focus almost exclusively on the struggles of the Neptune Reef and Clearly Canadian in the early half of 2007.

If you’re in the beverage business (and can get past the bits about Bobby’s colorful lifestyle), the show is an extremely useful – and rare, I might add – peak behind the currents of a real, live beverage company.

The story is basically this: Clearly Canadian, which was one of the industry’s rockstars in the early 90’s, has hit almost rock bottom, having fallen from its peak of $200 million down to $7.4 in 2006. Bobby G & company see Clearly as something that’s ripe for a turnaround. Sounds good on paper, no doubt, especially since the company’s public status provides some nice liquidity down the road. In typical venture capital fashion, Bobby G installs one of his right hand men, Brent Lokash, a lawyer by trade, as the new CEO, giving him an opportunity to climb up the Bobby G corporate ladder.

So why is the show valuable if you are in are or thinking about being in the beverage industry? Simple. This show tells the classic story of outsiders who think that the beverage industry is going to be a cakewalk compared to “my old life in real estate/i-banking/surgery/architecture.” It also shows what happens when you don’t have an understanding of the industry you are in (watch how they treat stick packs as a revolutionary new thing) and that not all food products are alike (they acquire an organic baby food company as well as an organic nut company and then question their fit).

Furthermore, the show teaches the basic business lesson that if you don’t have passion about what you’re doing you’re probably not going to be successful. Lokash, unlike the charismatic and successful Bobby G, is a complete stiff with his employees and in meetings, which, at least on the show, is a clear roadblock to the company’s ability to get traction. It makes them sloppy, and they botch an important meeting with Kalil Bottling and forget the right samples for Expo West. Plus, he’s unsure about beverage, which isn’t helped by the baby food and nut situation. Finally, and humorously, there’s Lokash’s meeting with the arrogant and obnoxious sales guy from Frank’s Energy Drink, who proceeds to completely steamroll Lokash as Lokash unveils that he didn’t bring product samples to the meeting.

And if you don’t believe these lessons, just look at how reality has played out for Clearly — sales haven’t rocketed back to where they used to be and Lokash is no longer CEO (Bobby G himself replaced him last month).

So, I’m anxiously awaiting more episodes to show up on my DVR….I’m hopeful that the show continues on to the days when Mike Weinstein & co. are brought on, plus I’m curious to know the answer to the Eric Skae mystery (buddy, what were you doing with those guys in Santa Monica??).

Watch for yourself >>