Francis Ford Coppola
Coppola Companies (Niebaum-Coppola winery and cafes, American Zoetrope, Mammarella Pasta, three resorts in Central America)
Niebaum-Coppola recently launched Sofia Mini Sparkling Wine, which comes in a hot-pink aluminum can with a straw attached. A four-pack is $20.
In The Godfather, there was a famously clear distinction between what was business and what was personal (all right, so it got a little blurry sometimes). For the film's writer and director, however, the two couldn't be more closely intertwined. Along with an illustrious film career, Francis Ford Coppola has quietly built a small empire of companies that reflects his own passions -- wine, food, travel, art.
His Napa winery, the Niebaum-Coppola estate, is the centerpiece of his companies, generating more than $56 million in annual sales with 200 employees. Every year, the estate hosts a fundraiser that brings in millions for cancer research. Add to that two Bay Area cafes (both called Cafe Niebaum-Coppola, in the interest of extending the brand), his Mammarella pasta sauce company, resorts in Belize and Guatemala, as well as American Zoetrope, the production studio, and it's not a bad business resume for a man who suffered a very public bankruptcy in 1992.
And though he's often off in far-flung locales for his films, Coppola is passionately hands-on when it comes to the start-up process. On the website for his Turtle Inn in Guatemala, he writes that the inn is "a personal joy; it was built up out of the rubble of a hurricane's wrath and rose up entirely under my supervision."
So while it's clear that he's a shrewd businessman (he has said that his companies subsidize his film habit), Coppola seems to have embraced the Peter Lynchian mantra of buy what you know (or in his case, what you know and love). As he told Variety last year, on the subject of getting into the wine business: "Only do it if you have the passion for it. Only do anything for that reason."