Billionaire investor and entrepreneur, Howard Leight Jr. is no newcomer to the business world. As an individual who controls a vast real estate, retail and technology empire, he’s one of the foremost financial minds, fiscally sound and monetarily disciplined. Like some of his well-to-do counterparts, it turns out that Leight is also a brilliant brand builder, having been able to leverage the power and sway of Instagram to create one of the fastest growing wine brands on the planet.
However, Leight’s winery, Malibu Rocky Oaks (MRO), which sits at a commanding elevation of 2,000 feet in the Santa Monica Mountains, and his subsequent wine brand that bears the same name, were born almost by accident. In 2005, Leight purchased the massive 37-acre parcel of land in Malibu and began construction. The grape vines that were planted were primarily placed there to assist with water runoff from the mountainsides.
It was unclear at that point in time that MRO’s elevation and steeply sloped hillsides coated in luminous grape vines, offering natural drainage and exposure to the sun afforded by the mountainous landscape, would, in fact, be a blessing in disguise. Combine that with the naturally-occurring volcanic soil that engulfs the estate, and what Leight came to find over the years was that the aromas, colors and flavors of his estate’s wines were akin to those born from Italy’s illustrious Chianti region.
Couple that with the subsequent addition and change of laws in the area, and what Leight further came to realize, to his benefit, is that MRO can actually never be replicated. Unlike other renowned regions in the Mediterranean or in Napa, new wineries won’t be able to crop up anywhere near his own estate. For that reason, MRO holds the proverbial cards, clearly positioned as a winery and an estate that truly is unique to the region and the world. But you would never think that from its gates located some 2,000 feet below.
In fact, not much of MRO’s unassuming entry from Kanan Drive in Malibu paints the picture of what awaits atop a long and winding road that spirals up the side of the mountain. Upon arrival, you’re greeting with a spectacle of stone and glass, an estate spanning an incredible 10,000 square feet, and aptly portrayed as some sort of right-of-passage by the world’s elite and most popular Instagram accounts, which further helped to catapult Leight and his winery to international acclaim.
Leveraging Social Media
Leight’s journey to building MRO into an internationally-acclaimed wine brand was fueled almost entirely by Instagram. Prior to its Instagram fame, Leight’s winery had a respectable name to itself, but has only further been catapulted by exposure to hundreds of millions of eyes through some of the world’s most foremost Instagram channels such as Luxury World Traveler, The Billionaire’s Club and This Is A Man’s World, just to name a few.
However, to Leight’s advantage, he had created one of the most picturesque wine destinations on the planet. In fact, MRO has been acclaimed not only as a world-renowned wine brand but also as one of the most sought-after wedding destinations on the planet for several years in a row. To his credit, Leight had constructed an awe-inspiring almost-touch-the-clouds Tuscan Estate in a locale more known for its glitzy beachfront homes than its hilltop wineries.
In a recent conversation with Leight, he tells me that:
The Malibu Rocky Oaks brand would not have grown so quickly without such great exposure. In just a few years I now deal with some of the largest retailers and distributors which usually takes 10-15 years, we did in as little as three. Often people I meet via Snap and Insta will refer me to people in the industry, often the young family members of the largest beverage companies in the world, this is probably a result of the unique and opulent content that is part of the brand that reaches the millennials, and the fact they can connect with the CEO! But in the end, in this business it all comes down to the 90+ point rated high quality wine me produce.
To grow his wine brand on Instagram, Leight didn’t need to learn search engine optimization or even to a start a blog. All he needed to do was to connect with the right people, and slowly but surely, over time, those people began to expose MRO to the world. What started out on Instagram has now stretched into Snap Chat and has made Leight into a mini-celebrity of sorts, able to network and connect with like-minded individuals and business owners, easily and effectively, from across the planet.
Clearly, the power of social media has fueled the international reach of MRO, but the high 90-plus-point rating of its wine has clearly played a primary role in the brand’s meteoric rise to fame. However, Leight did several things correctly as he grew MRO to a global business producing wide-ranging wines from a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, to a rich Merlot, and even a crisp and refreshing Chardonnay.
In the beginning, Leight merely started posting photos of his estate on Instagram, which quickly went viral due to the breathtaking natural beauty surrounding MRO. Leight’s once-unknown winery from 5 years ago is now one of the most well-known wedding and wine destinations on the planet thanks in large part due global connectivity afforded through social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.
Like other renowned Instagramers, Leight used the power of Instagram to build his business. If you’re wondering how you can replicate his success in the wine industry, clearly you’ll need to start with a great bottle of wine and an impeccable destination. If you have the wine and the destination, you have two major pieces in the puzzle. However, clearly it took time. It didn’t happen overnight for Leight by any measure.
Yet, today, for those looking to even hang out at MRO, you have to be in-the-know, so to speak. Leight’s ability to build up the allure at his winery clearly starts with having a picturesque destination, but also by having the ability to aptly convey a luxurious lifestyle. For those that are deeply entrenched in this rat-race we call life, Leight’s social media channel is the stuff that dreams are made of.
However, it’s not only his depiction of the MRO estate and its cloud-clinging surrounding mountains that gives you an awe-inspiring feeling. Leight, the owner of a stunning beach house in the Malibu Colony and a helicopter-donned super yacht in Marina Del Rey, has the accessibility to a lifestyle that can often seem out of reach even for those that might consider themselves well-off.
Thanks to Leight’s accessibility to all of this sought-after luxury, he took things to new heights thanks to Instagram Live and Instagram Stories that have helped him to depict everyday life, not only at MRO, but also on his stunning yacht that he arrives to with his helicopter, and of course, his beach house. However, it’s not just the lifestyle, but also his personality and approachability that have helped entrench MRO as a right-of-passage destination. Combining all of this, Leight has truly fueled an Instagram profile that has catapulted him and his wine to international acclaim.