Miami, FL

The Miami Woman Behind the Success of Dwayne Johnson

Ash Jurberg

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Dwayne Johnson and Dany GarciaDany Garcia/Instagram

Can you smell what the Rock is cooking?

If you can, the chances are Dany Garcia is helping prepare the dish. Garcia, who was married to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson from 1997–2008 and had a daughter with him, is his manager, business partner, and killer entrepreneur. Garcia was born in Tampa and went to college at the University of Miami. Johnson also attended the University of Miami, where he was on the Miami Hurricanes national championship in 1991.

Her achievements have been instrumental in the success of Johnson both on and off-screen. Most divorces end acrimoniously amidst bitter feuds. In this case, when they divorced in 2008, Johnson asked Garcia to manage him.

Since then, she has become one of the most successful producers in the movie industry, an investor, philanthropist, and just for good measure, a world-class professional bodybuilder.

Introducing from Tampa, Florida-Dany Garcia

Garcia had a successful business career before her move to managing Johnson. An alumnus of the University of Miami, she was an Associate Vice President at Merrill Lynch and started her own wealth management firm, JDM Partners LLC, in 2002. She quit both these roles to take the plunge into management and TV/movie production.

Garcia and Johnson launched their own production studio in 2012 — Seven Bucks Productions. (The name comes from Johnson being down to his last seven dollars before his big break.) Through this, they backed many successful projects, including The Titan Games (NBC), Ballers (HBO), Jumanji (Columbia), Jungle Cruise (Disney), and Hobbs & Shaw (Universal).

Diversification has been key to their business, and they also launched a clothing line with Under Armour (known as Project Rock) and a digital media brand (Seven Bucks Digital Studios).

In March 2020, they launched Teremana tequila, jumping on the celebrity alcohol bandwagon. In their first nine months, they sold 300,000 9-liter cases, no doubt helped by the COVID lockdown. Many of you will know the success of George Clooney with his Casamigos tequila brand. He sold the company to Diageo for $1 billion. In its first 12 months of business, Casamigos sold 175,090 cases. Suffice to say, compared to Clooney, Teremana is tracking very well.

For most people, that would be enough for 2020. But Garcia isn't most people. The pandemic created an opportunity for a discounted purchase, and like any good business person, Garcia pounced.

In August, together with private equity firm RedBird Capital, she purchased the XFL for $15 million. This made Garcia the first woman to own a professional sports league. Not a team. A whole league.

Outside of her collaborations with Johnson, Garcia also leads The Garcia Companies and TGC Management. She manages actors such as Henry Cavill and oversees a portfolio that includes Voss Water and Atom Tickets investments.

Lastly, let's not forget she can add philanthropy to her LinkedIn profile. She founded Beacon Experience, a foundation that works with at-risk children to empower them to break economic and social barriers and extend their education beyond high school.

Four secrets to building a spaceship

“She builds the spaceship, and all I do is fly it.” Dwayne Johnson on Dany Garcia

You thought it was only Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk who were building spaceships. OK, this is a little different, but we can see how Garcia builds her business, AKA spaceship.

1. Build a team you can trust

“Building a business is about sustainability. You must build models that can run without you. Your job is not to run everything, but make sure everything runs. Set a vision, and work to make sure everyone aligns.” Dany Garcia

Garcia runs her businesses while also being a mother and competing as a professional bodybuilder. Her production company alone has over fifty projects on the books. She manages to juggle all this through building teams she can rely on. “You can’t get too deep in the weeds. I have to sort of zoom in and then come back out because when you have so many projects if you get fully engrossed in one thing, you can’t see how they completely tie together.”

When building her team, she has a huge focus on diversity and is passionate about building a socially responsible culture in all of her businesses.

2. Say NO when the solution is perfect

“Stop. Don’t say ‘yes’ right away. Don’t take the easy ‘yes.” Dany Garcia

This might be contrary advice to what many successful entrepreneurs say. And might come as a surprise considering the diversification of Garcia’s business interests. Garcia has a growth philosophy: don’t be a disruptor for the sake of it. It is good to challenge how business is done, but it needs to be carefully planned and researched.

When she is looking for a solution, Garcia employs patience. If the answer isn't a perfect fit and serves all the pillars of her life, she has the patience to say no and keep waiting. She says, “I’ve found that people who succeed by just pounding, pounding, pounding…don’t have that balance. They take easy lefts and easy rights, they get angry because it’s easy to be angry, but in the end, they don’t solve anything.”

Any change must be deliberate and step by step.

3. Prepare for Global Domination

“First we assess not so much who we have been, but who we will be in the next three to five years. We take a forward-facing look at where we are in the U.S. and also globally. What concerns do we have? Where are the markets that we have relationships? Where do we want to deepen our relationships? Where do we want to move the needle? Where can we impact people?” Dany Garcia

Every two years, Garcia holds a two-day summit with her executive team called the Global Domination Summit. It includes over fifty staff from across all her businesses.

Surprisingly this is innovative within her industry, with Garcia saying, “I don’t know anyone else who does this in our business.” She believes it is a huge reason for her success, and her executives across all her businesses face the same direction and understand their long-term mission. Garcia also credits this for them rarely having to face the unexpected as they plan for all eventualities. They are also questioning what they are doing and whether there is a better way to do things.

“What we did this year, we didn’t do last year. We are not attached to the process. We are only attached to the result.”

4. Audience comes first

“If you’re making stories that you want to reach the world, you have to be committed to the world. You have to be committed to the community. You have to be committed to the people and the markets you are serving, and truly understand them.” Dany Garcia

Obviously, being in movie production, the audience is paramount. But Garcia applies this to all her investments, ever since she was in wealth management. ‘We’re audience first, right?. We’re consumers first. We are who is on the other side. The risk is going to be if we lose touch with that understanding.” Regardless of the industry, the need to understand the consumer, the client, is essential.

She has successfully paired her years of experience in the finance industry with her work within media, which has led to business partnerships in various verticals.

But wait, there's more!

One sign of a great entrepreneur is that they never rest on their laurels. I had just finished this article and was ready to submit it when I saw a new announcement appear in my news feed.

In March, Garcia and Johnson launched another new product. They entered the ever-growing energy drink market (projected to be worth $86.01 billion by 2026.) Their ZOA drink will be the first clean and healthy product in the energy drink market, free from preservatives, artificial ingredients, and additives and made with immunity-boosting superfood ingredients. A distribution agreement has been signed with The Molson Coors Beverage Company.

This is a dedicated effort based on research to disrupt this market dominated by the major players. In their press release, they said this would be the first of many health-related products.

The Dany Garcia success train continues to roll.

Our approach has always been ‘how are we developing a strategy that’s built fundamentally on our value proposition?’ We’re going to be transparent and consumer-facing, because that’s how we are in entertainment.” Dany Garcia on the ZOA drink release.

Closing credits

Dwayne Johnson is a huge success. He has been voted the Most Likeable Man on the Planet. He is Hollywoods highest earner and is in the Top 10 most-followed people on Instagram. But a lot of that is due to Dany Garcia. The manager, the businesswomen, the entrepreneur behind a lot of it. The woman who helped create his brand and built his corporate spaceship.

What stands out to me the most is Dany’s rare trifecta of confidence, business acumen and the all-important emotional intelligence. She has those success qualities in spades. Sometimes she wins and sometimes she doesn’t, but when she sets the table, you’d be smart to push all your chips in on that bet.” Dwayne Johnson

One of the most successful business partnerships occurred due to the college students meeting at the University of Miami. It has led to the rise of Dwayne Johnson and the Miami woman behind him- Dany Garcia.

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