J. Darius Bikoff
Bikoff is the founder and CEO of Energy Brands Inc., the parent company of Glaceau, which distributes "enhanced water" products like Smartwater, Fruitwater, and Vitaminwater. He's also very rich man: In May 2007, Coke purchased the Queens-based company for more than $4 billion.
Raised on Long Island by an Iranian mother and a Brooklynite father, Bikoff got his start in the beverage biz when he took over his father's aluminum packaging outfit, which supplied beverage makers with the materials to manufacture soda cans and juice lids. Ten years after taking control of the company, he jumped into the beverage business himself, launching a bottled water franchise named Glaceau, a decision he says was inspired by a water contamination scare in 1996. It was Bikoff's second creation, Vitaminwater, that earned him fame and fortune. (As for the idea of flavoring water, Bikoff says it came to him while chewing a vitamin C tablet and drinking water at the same time.) Bikoff went all out on the concept, which he developed in 1998: He put together a team of experts (which included a food scientist, flavorist, microbiologist, and dietitian) to help him devise the formulas, hired Philippe Starck to design the bottle, and took to the streets himself, visiting specialty stores to personally persuade them to stock Vitaminwater.
Bikoff built Vitaminwater into a behemoth thanks to a cheeky ad approach and plenty of star power: Bikoff delivered his product to Paris Hilton's house himself and made sure that the paparazzi photographed stars carrying the bottles; he also gave celebrities like 50 Cent cash and equity in the company in exchange for the use of their name marketing his beverages. By 2006, the company was selling a whopping 700 million bottles a year and its popularity led to half a dozen competitors jumping into the market, many with suspiciously similar flavors and bottle designs. But Bikoff doesn't have to fret about the competition these days. Having sold a 30 percent stake in the company to the Indian conglomerate Tata for $677 million in 2006, he did even better in May 2007 when he sold off the entire company to Coke for a heady $4.1 billion. As part of the deal, Bikoff has agreed to remain at the company for three years.
Previously married to Broadway bit player Nanne Puritz, Bikoff has one daughter with his current wife, Jill. In 2006, he put his East 77th Street condo on the market for $2.5 million, and bought a $5.6 million duplex penthouse in a new building on East 72nd Street. In 2008, he bought a summer house in Sagaponack for $19.25 million.
Bikoff installed a custom-made fridge in the trunk of his Mercedes S600 to ensure that his personal supply of Vitaminwater is always chilled. The price? A mere $50,000.