5-Hour’s Manoj Bhargava a “Mystery Monk?”

The old joke is still a good one:

Q: “How do you make a small fortune in the beverage business?”

A: “Start with a large fortune.”

But there are a number of billionaires in the latest edition of the Forbes 400 who would dispute that notion, as they owe some or all of their fortune to the beverage business.

Listed in the magazine’s annual compilation are well known beverage entrepreneurs like Steward and Linda Resnick (POM Wonderful, Fiji Water) and Howard Schultz (Starbucks), but also a few others who have flown under the radar. For example, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who own casinos and the UFC, also own energy drink company Xyience. There’s also Robert Stiller, who introduced Green Mountain Coffee to the world, as well as boozers Dean Metropoulos (who owns Pabst) and hair care genius John Paul DeJoria, who made a second fortune via Patron tequila after introducing the world to John Paul Mitchell products.

This says nothing of the retail (Christy Walton — Wal-Mart), distribution (Drayton McClane — McClane) and ingredient (various members of the Cargill family) businesses represented on the list.

Why do we bring this up?

5-Hour: On Fire!

Forbes has just done a probing profile of 5-Hour Energy founder Manoj Bhargava, who may be heading for that list himself this year (the story compares his wealth favorably to that of investor Vinod Khasla).

While readers of BevNET are aware of most of the story of 5-Hour’s rise to a billion-dollar business, there are some interesting personal tidbits from the story:

  • Bhargava spent more than a decade living in India as a member of an ascetic order called Hanslok
  • Bhargava claims to have donated about $1 billion in 2009, although the magazine explores whether that arrangement is something of a tax dodge
  • He dropped out of Princeton after a year, and claims to have “Good Will Hunting”-style math skills

On the business front, here’s one really good metric: 5-Hour does 15 percent of its business in Wal-Mart. That puts the overall annual sales well north of $1.2 billion.

For the rest of the Forbes profile, click here.