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News for Independent BusinessBefore they were Big Time – Jimmy Buffett and...

Before they were Big Time – Jimmy Buffett and Margaritaville – A Series…


Here’s the thing about signers and songwriters. They’re fame and fortune, if they are lucky enough to have garnered any, was not from their musical skills directly, but from their business acumen.

Jimmy Buffet is a prime example. Most Americans are familiar with the song Margaritaville, whether they realize it was done by the Mississippi native and Key West legend or not. At 72, his island lifestyle music still resonates with millions around the world.

While Buffett would go on to write countless albums, books, movies and plays, he branded Margaritaville, and it has become synonymous with the Caribbean lifestyle many baby boomers want to live. I was in Key West back in the late ’80s and stumbled upon (literally) a bar and restaurant called Margaritaville. As a rube would do, I ordered a margarita. The young lady behind the bar said that would be $12, please. That’s when I knew Buffett must have some of Warren Buffett’s business sense (not related actually).

Yes, the music is fantastic, but the business is better and is where he made his wealth. The singer-songwriter turned his classic song “Margaritaville” into an empire that accounts for the bulk of his earnings. Founded by Buffett in 1987, Margaritaville Holdings continues to expand, recently announcing new resorts in Belize and Mexico. The massive lifestyle brand also includes apparel, footwear and home decor, as well as tequila and margarita mix.

His roots are southern and his music echoes his upbringing. His grandfather was a sailor and seaman drawing Buffett to the water and south. Unlike many popular musicians, Buffett graduated in 1969 from the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in history. At the university, he was involved in the Kappa Sigma, the largest college social fraternity in the world.

One would assume this primed the pump of his layback lifestyle.  With country music on his mind, he went to Nashville after college and began writing songs. The decade of the ’70s was phenomenal for Buffett and eventually for his fans as well. His album ‘A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean’ was released in 1973, followed by the albums ‘Living & Dying in 3/4 Time’ and ‘A1A’ in 1974. The album ‘Havana Daydreamin’ was released in 1976. The home run was hit with ‘Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes’ in 1977. It had the hit song Margaritaville. The song took the eighth position in the U.S Billboard Hot 100 and topped the U.S Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks.

Back to business. The entity that encompasses his business world is known as Margaritaville Holdings, under which his empire sits. Some of which include:

  • In 1985, he started the Margaritaville restaurant in Key West, Florida. He also owns the Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant, Margaritaville Tequila, Margaritaville Footwear, and Margaritaville Foods.
  • He launched Margaritaville Records in 1993; the distribution under the label was managed through MCA Records.
  • In 2006, he partnered with the Anheuser-Busch brewing company to produce beer under the label of LandShark Lager. The Miami Dolphins stadium was known as LandShark Stadium for several years.
  • Margaritaville Holdings partnered with Minto Communities and created a $1 billion retirement village in Daytona Beach, Florida, called Latitude Margaritaville. There will be about 7,000 homes in the village by the time the project is completed. A brilliant move as a bulk of his audience is retiring baby boomers. More Latitude Margaritavilles are coming soon.

While the genesis of Buffett’s success was his music, his business enterprises have made him wealthy and placed him at number 47 on Forbes’ List of Celebrities.

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