Business

How Keith Weaver leveraged his experience at Sony to help his wife establish America’s fastest-growing whiskey brand

BY Preta Peace Namasaba June 17, 2024 5:42 PM EDT
Keith Weaver. Photo Credit: The Spirits Business

Keith Weaver left Sony Entertainment Pictures to co-found the whiskey company, Uncle Nearest. In 2022, the company generated $100 million in sales. Weaver has leveraged over two decades of executive management into a whiskey brand available in over 25,000 stores across all 50 states and 12 countries. Today, Uncle Nearest is valued at $1 billion.

“I’m a part of helping found Uncle Nearest, which is the fastest-growing whiskey or bourbon company in American history. There’s a theme here, some data, which is boldness. That’s what took me through that career at Sony so successfully, and what really poises us for continued growth and success as I charter out and embark upon this next entrepreneurial pursuit,” Weaver said.

Weaver gets his business acumen from his parents who were both hard-working entrepreneurs. He earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Public Administration from California State University. He worked as Manager, Community and Government Relations at Kaiser Permanente and as Staff Director at the California State Senate Redistricting Office, earlier in his career.

In 2002, Weaver joined Sony as Senior Vice President, Government Affairs. He rose to Executive Vice President, Global Policy and External Affairs and ultimately Executive Vice President, Worldwide Government Affairs. He co-founded Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey alongside his wife Fawn Weaver in 2017. Weaver decided to leverage his experience as a senior-level movie entertainment executive after he found himself catching long red-eye flights from Los Angeles to Tennessee to work at the distillery.

Uncle Nearest expanded into all 50 states and 12 countries within two years of its debut. It was one of the top-five fastest-growing U.S. whiskey by volume growth, between 2018 and 2019. The brand has sold nearly 1.5 million bottles of whiskey and is recognized as the most successful Black-owned distillery in the world. Uncle Nearest celebrates Nathan ‘Nearest’ Green, the first-known African-American master distiller.

Additionally, Weaver is the founder of Humble Baron, which the Guinness Book of Records has certified as the “World’s Longest Bar.” The 17-station bar is 518 feet long, with space for 50 members of staff, and twists and turns around the 20,000-square-foot room. Humble Baron brought in over 8000 people on its opening weekend last year.

“Having worked in the fast-paced creative sector for decades, I am fueled by dynamic, creative thinking and action. Alongside my entertainment career, I have been able to quietly develop successful investments and I’m thrilled to now fully shift my focus, bringing that energy and excitement to the real estate and hospitality realm,” Weaver explained.

Weaver also recently founded Nashwood, Inc., a real estate and hospitality company. Its name pays homage to his hometown of Los Angeles and lengthy career in Hollywood, and his current home of Nashville, Tennessee. The company owns the US Bank Building in Shelbyville, the former Shelbyville Times Gazette Building, and other holdings.