From its base in South Beach, V Georgio Vodka was supposed to take over the world.
Started by college basketball player, recording artist, and sports agent Victor Harvey, the company hooked up with Scott Rothstein, who became a part-owner. Rothstein not only bought a stake in the "ultra-premium" -- that means ridiculously expensive -- vodka but also played a huge role in marketing it.
Now the federal government is knocking on Harvey's door in Weston wanting Rothstein's share in the company back.
Rothstein may have also opened up some doors at the Seminole Hard Rock, where he partnered with the tribe to hold Zo's Summer Groove. To get an idea how Harvey rolled, here's a blog post of his from April 6:
This weekend was pretty cool. It started off at Hardrock Live with the Bellator Fighting Championships. V Georgio was the only vodka in the building and it was going like crazy. Even at $15.00 per drink once people tasted it they did not hesitate to keep ordering doubles. We had the body painted V Georgio girls that we are becoming famous for, strutting their stuff both inside and outside the arena. They stole the show from the ring card girls. ESPN was all over them taking pictures and
filming them. Myself and my guest were sitting in the second row and the fights were amazing. I remember some guy in the front row saying, as the girls walked by, oh shit another vodka. His wife, or girlfriend, or whoever she was went to get them drinks. When she returned with his vodka and tonic, he tasted it and said, "damn this is really good". LOL About an hour later after two more doubles someone told him I was the owner. He turned around and let me know how much he really liked it. Saturday we were at Cafe Iguana Pines to watch the first round of the final four.
Harvey was clearly trying to create a bigger-than-life image for his vodka, and there was nobody better to do that with than Rothstein. Just look at V Georgio's website, which opens with a shot of the vodka company's jet (not sure if it's real) and goes on to shots of South Beach, Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles. Then there's a shot of a velvet rope with the slogan: "V Giorgio, For Those Who Can."
Yeah, it had Rothstein all over it.
But Harvey is a pretty interesting fellow. He played basketball at Bowling Green State University and then had moderate success as a recording artist before getting into real estate, becoming a sports agent, and giving it a go at vodka moguldom (he wanted to knock Grey Goose off its perch). He's suppposedly the only black owner of a liquor company in the world. Here's how he described his professional life in a recent interview with 24hourhiphop.com:
Well it's funny 'cause when I got my first record deal I was signed to a major label,0 and I think I was keeping like 8 or 9 cents a record and after the 1st record they told me I owed them like $200,000 or $300,000. So you know my 2nd advance on my next record was like $5,000, it's obvious I couldn't live on $5,000 so I never released that record while I was signed to them. I took 2 years to learn the business and then started my own record label, which was called Educated Records.
Basically I named it that because obviously I had taken the time to learn the business and dropped a record called, "The Rise and The Fall Rising" and it became a major hit. I took that money that I made off that album and started investing in real estate and bought tons of real estate, hotels and things like that. I wanted to expand my hotel brand internationally and so I bought one in Jamaica and I have on in Costa Rica. So what I started doing was looking for opportunities, the condo-conversion thing became real big and we started looking into doing some of that stuff. Then the market dried up and I said, Hey, I own nightclubs, I own hotels and I was in the Entertainment Business and I was also a Sports Agent, so the commonality between all of those things was ALCOHOL!
Here's another quote from miami.com that was published the day before Rothstein fled to Morocco:
In 1993 I signed a record deal with Vision Records. That was a big thing. It didn't work out the way I thought it would, but I learned a lot from that experience and from that I was able to start my own label called Educated Records. The album was really about coming up as a street guy, being poor, making fast money, and then losing it all in the blink of an eye. I got that record deal when I was 23 and got a lot of money real fast. I lost everything. I took time to educate myself - the meaning of my label - and I came back up. That was the rise. I learned that it takes a lot to make it out here. It's not just about fancy cars and hot women, it's about understanding that - God willing - tomorrow's gonna come.
Looking at this video taken at a Super Bowl party, Harvey is still pretty impressed with fancy cars and hot girls, though.