Sammy Hagar on making music, managing money — and drinking $80K bottles of wine

Sammy Hagar says he can’t drive a 55 yet. But it’s hard to tell if that’s meant literally or if he’s talking about his prisoner’s philosophy on his whole life.

Hagar – aka Red Rocker – is a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, best known for his two terms as the lead singer of Van Halen (yes, he succeeded David Lee Roth). ). He has also worked extensively as a solo artist, with the 1984 song “I Can’t Drive 55” being his biggest hit.

But Hagar, now 75, is a musician on an equal footing in the business world, like a hard rock rival to entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett.

He had great success with the Cabo Wabo Tequila brand, which he sold to Gruppo Campari for $100 million in 2008. Canned cocktails (he started his Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co.). and restaurants (his Cabo Wabo Cantina in Mexico has been in business since 1990, plus his Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill chain). He has also authored the mixology book Sammy Hagar’s Cocktail Hits.

Meanwhile, for some reason, Hagar continues to make music. He currently leads a group called The Circle, which released his latest album Crazy Times in 2022.

MarketWatch recently caught up with Hagar to learn about his enthusiastic life and career and hear his take on key personal finance issues. Below is an edited excerpt of the conversation.

Market Watch: You’ve had a successful music career, and it just keeps getting better. Is there a logical thread that connects your music career with everything else?

Hagar: It’s plain and simple. I’m a creative person and my mind expands beyond just writing songs. If I just stay there, I will stagnate. I love challenges.

The entire hospitality business is very connected to my fans. I always kind of entertain them. I give them things to do, show them a lifestyle, show them good food and drink to get them going. increase. They go to my bars, they go to my restaurants, they play my music, they come to my concerts. I think it’s a more fulfilling experience.

Market Watch: Long before George Clooney was peddling expensive bottles, you were trying to get people to take tequila seriously. Is not it?

Hagar: Boy, I sure did, and when I was growing up, I had the same opinion. Then I went furniture shopping for the Cabo Wabo restaurant in Jalisco, Mexico. A friend of mine said, “Have you ever been to a place where they make tequila?” And so we went there and tasted 100% agave tequila. This is like 1987. I have to point people to this. This is blowing my mind. This is delicious. ‘ It was a no-brainer because the way I went through it was such a transformative experience. Everyone who tasted it said the same thing, but the good news was that no one had ever tasted a really good tequila.

The material is the most important (mentally). Otherwise, it’s like saying “I got a great song.” Now let’s have someone record the guitar solo. ’ No, we should say, ‘Let’s get Eddie Van Halen. Already, it’s a really good song.

Market Watch: You also entered the canned cocktail business. It’s a crowded market now. Some say there are too many people. What do you think it takes to be successful?

Hagar: Same thing: better products. That’s what I rely on in everything I do. I’ve been successful in so many different ways that I’ve been able to feed myself more than I needed to with music, and I’ve been able to feed myself more than I needed to in my restaurant and cantina business. You don’t have to stand up, you have to cut corners. I can discount and be happy.

Market Watch: I wrote a new cocktail book. What is the biggest mistake most people make when making cocktails at home?

Hagar: I think the biggest mistake is using an off-the-shelf mixer. Create a mixer from scratch. The better the ingredients, the better the cocktail.

Market Watch: What are you discovering as an artist at this age that you wished you knew when you were younger?

Hagar: I wish I had spent more time making records than just wanting to show my butt on tour. I’m a performer and I’ve neglected recording, so I really thought touring was the way to go. We made the record as soon as possible so we could get back on tour.

Market Watch: You may not be the one to answer this question objectively, but let’s ask anyway: Which era of Van Halen was better, the Sammy Hagar era or the David Lee Roth era?

Hagar: Hey, that’s like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. For me, I think the Hagar era was much more elevated musically. We wrote deeper, more complex songs. And my melody and range were far superior to what Dave can do. Dave was talking more about the band’s antics and gimmicks.

Van Halen Band members Sammy Hagar (left) and Michael Anthony at the 2007 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Getty Images

Market Watch: What are you willing to splurge on?

Hagar: fine wine.

Market Watch: What’s the most money you’ve ever spent on a single bottle?

Hagar: God, please don’t ask that question, it’s embarrassing. What if he said he drank $80,000 of wine? I didn’t spend that much money on them at the time. I have been collecting wine for a long time, so I have a very deep collection. I probably have 15,000 bottles. So a bottle that 40 years ago he paid $2,000 or he paid $3,000 for is now worth $80,000, $90,000, or $100,000.

Market Watch: Conversely, what do you dislike spending money on?

Hagar: lawyer.

Market Watch: What’s the biggest financial mistake you’ve made? Have you ever bought an expensive bottle of wine that turned into vinegar?

Hagar: Oh yeah, I paid thousands of dollars for a 1945 Lafitte that had just been shot. The seller then says: No warranty. ‘ I said, ‘Just kidding, I will never buy wine from you again.’ And I didn’t.

Market Watch: You clearly have a great head for business. But why do so many other entertainers (especially rock stars) get so caught up in money problems?

Hagar: Well, it’s all too easy to think you’re just on top of the world when you’re doing great things. You are not thinking of paying taxes. When I made my first million dollars, I spent a lot of it. I bought my first house, bought a Ferrari, invested in a few. And the next year my accountant said, “You know, we have $472,000 in taxes.” And I go. Need to book some shows. i am broken!

that’s one thing. Also, you think you are invincible. You make so much money every year that you don’t realize it’s suddenly coming to an end. And so it is for most artists. Long-lived artists, we are lucky. I am the luckiest man in the world.

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