Spirits Entrepreneur and CEO Brett Berish Talks Success and More – Robb Report
As President and CEO of Sovereign brands, Brett Berish created a list of fast-growing wine and spirits labels known for their sleek packaging and celebrity (and in some cases, buyers) – in 2014, Jay-Z bought Armand de Brignac Champagne, aka Ace of Spades, from Sovereign Brands for an undisclosed amount). The family-run wine and spirits company, founded by Berish in 1999, today is responsible for beverages such as Luc Belaire French sparkling wine, bubu rum and McQueen and the Purple Fog Gin.
But for all the gregarious, party vibes his company delivers — Luc Belaire was notably blown away by the Los Angeles Rams after their recent Super Bowl victory, and Bumbu counts rappers Lil Wayne and Rick Ross among his admirers — Berish, 53 years old, is a family man at heart. The father-of-six, who lives mostly near Chicago but has additional residences in New York and Florida, comes alive when he discusses vacations with his clan and reserves the highest praise for his in-line skater mother. “He’s my guru, my role model,” he says.
The spirits entrepreneur (who, before launching Sovereign, worked as an investment banker) also created Usse Cognac alongside Bacardi. More recently, Berish brought a new brandy liqueur dubbed Villon at the market. “Success is the next mark. That’s the next thing for me,” he says.
What have you done recently for the first time?
I just had my sixth child, so I feel like it’s all starting again. It’s new.
First thing you do in the morning?
I drink two cups of coffee and walk for two hours. I have a walking stick that I trimmed and sanded myself, and I walk 7-15 miles a day. If I don’t, it ruins me.
What advice would you have liked to follow?
Trust my instincts. This is the most important thing. I have an expression that I just said to my team: “Consensus doesn’t make good ideas.” I wish I had learned it sooner, but it comes with confidence and time.
What are you doing that is still analog?
Every time I travel, I go to a wine store, a liquor store, a grocery store. I love walking the aisles, seeing brands that will never change, touching and smelling a brand. For me, brands are a personal thing, and that’s what I like best.
How to find peace?
I’m doing a series called “Self madewhere I interview people: influencers, celebrities, business people, sports personalities. I love to hear the come-up part; I don’t like to hear success. Knowing that other people have gone through difficulties gives me a lot of relief because I can relate to it.
What’s the most recent thing you’ve added to your collection?
I own Charlie Bucket’s Golden Ticket from the original Willy Wonka movie. I bought it at an auction from the director’s family, and I got the whole story. Anyone you mention the golden ticket to, it just brings smiles. I love it. It’s my most prized possession.
What’s the most recent thing you regret not buying?
A 1967 Volkswagen Microbus with 21 windows. I wanted it because I have six kids and I see my whole family riding on it. And because of Covid, I didn’t pull the trigger, because I would have bought it without seeing it, and needed to see it in person. But it was beautiful.
What is the most impressive dish you cook?
They are scrambled eggs with cheese, burnt bacon, a few sausages and toast. I can do that very well. You must have burnt bacon, though – burnt and really crispy bacon.
What does success look like to you?
For me, success constantly proves that our ideas worked. If I have a new idea, I want to see it come true. Anyone can have an idea, but making it happen is the hardest part.
How much do you trust your instincts?
My success has been based on trusting my instincts. And it was when I didn’t trust them that it didn’t work.
To drive or to be driven?
Conduct. You must be in control, you must.
Do you wear a watch? How many do you own?
I own a watch. It’s one of the most special things I own because Rick Ross gave it to me, a gold Rolex. And it was engraved for me, “From one boss to another.” And I love it, I absolutely love it. It’s so heavy, it’s hard to carry.
The last time you unplugged?
Last summer, I went camping with my three brothers, three of my children, all my nephews. Three days of camping in the woods, which was just awesome.
What’s the last piece of advice you gave?
Don’t be afraid to fail. I tell my team every day: try things; don’t wait for approval. If that doesn’t work, don’t worry. Life is like improvisation. You make it a little better every day.
What is your email etiquette?
Monitoring. I will always respond and as soon as possible. For me, it’s a matter of respect.
Which car(s) are you most attached to?
I have a 1988 Defender, which is beautifully restored. There are seats that face each other aft. We call it Frosty, as in Frosty the Snowman – bright blue. And I have a red Moke, which the kids named Sharktooth. It’s an electric car. It looks like a Jeep that has been bisected horizontally but is going 35 miles per hour. It’s street legal, and it’s amazing.
What do you crave most at the end of the day?
It must be a drink. I drink every day and at the end of the day it’s my favorite. I’m going to pour a highball glass full of one of the brands, and I’m going to sit down by myself and relax. It’s my favorite thing to do. There is nothing better. Yeah, you should drink with friends, but I’m a great solo drinker.
Bowie or Dylan?
Certainly Bowie. I don’t understand Dylan.