Investor Todd Hoffman, not to be confused with the star of the Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush”, is an American investor who rose to fame around the documentary “Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?”.
The documentary tells the story of a young John Hoffman, who found a loophole in a Pepsi ad campaign and convinced Hoffman who was in his forties at the time, to help fund him.
“John brought this to me and told me the story,” Market Realist recently reported. “We looked at the videotape of the commercial, and I just kept looking at it over and over and over and going: ‘That is absolutely a reckless ad put out there by a major corporation that knows better.'”
During the mid-1990s, PepsiCo launched a series of commercials with the goal of promoting their Pepsi products and an associated rewards system. Under this system, customers could accrue points by purchasing Pepsi products, which they could then redeem for various prizes like T-shirts and sunglasses. One particular commercial famously featured the grand prize of an AV-8 Harrier II jet, which was priced at approximately $32 million at that time. Although the commercial was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it failed to include a disclaimer indicating its humorous nature.
John brought this to me, and told me the story,” Hoffman recalled. “We looked at the videotape of the commercial, and I just kept looking at it over and over and over and going: ‘That is absolutely a reckless ad put out there by a major corporation that knows better.
In 1996, a 21-year-old business student named John Leonard discovered that it was theoretically possible to buy Pepsi Points for 10 cents each. He calculated that amassing seven million points would cost him $700,000. Additionally, the rules only mandated a minimum of 15 Pepsi Points’ worth of physical product labels from Pepsi items beyond the points purchased. Leonard managed to persuade five investors, one of whom was Todd Hoffman, to assist him in acquiring the remaining points needed. Subsequently, Leonard sent his points along with a check to claim the Harrier jet. However, PepsiCo rejected his request, asserting that the commercial had been a jest and emphasizing that the jet was not among the items listed in their catalog of products obtainable through Pepsi Points.
Initially, PepsiCo filed a lawsuit against Leonard in the Southern District of New York, attempting to secure a favorable jurisdiction. However, Leonard counter-sued in Miami, accusing PepsiCo of breach of contract, fraud, deceptive trade practices, and misleading advertising. He enlisted the services of political strategist, and later celebrity attorney, Michael Avenatti as part of his legal team. Concurrently, PepsiCo sought to have Leonard’s claim labeled as frivolous. This legal battle became known as Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc. and was eventually transferred to a federal court in Manhattan, within the Southern District of New York.
In September 1997, the Pentagon declared that the Harrier jets were not available for purchase and would require “demilitarization” before being considered for public sale, a process that would involve disabling their vertical takeoff and landing capabilities. In August 1999, Judge Kimba Wood ruled in favor of PepsiCo, arguing that “[n]o reasonable person could have concluded that the commercial was genuinely offering consumers a Harrier jet.” Subsequently, the company updated their commercial, increasing the number of Pepsi Points required to claim the jet from seven million to 700 million.
Todd Hoffman Net Worth
According to Market Realist, Todd Hoffman is a minor millionaire.
“Hoffman’s net worth is about $10 million, according to ExactNetWorth.com. Much of his money comes from his real estate investments, venture capitalism, restaurants, and his family’s automobile business, Hoffman Enterprises, which his grandfather founded in 1921. The company also had many franchises and dealerships for Toyota, Honda, and Hoffman Ford.”
Todd Hoffman today
Hoffman talked to the Guardian about the experience and said he has fond memories of it.
“I just love being connected with people like John,” he said. “He looks all serious and he looks conservative, but he’s insane. He’s certifiably insane. He holds a job. He has a beautiful family. He has a house and pays a mortgage and goes to work every day, but he’s got some real mental things going on. Way outside the box.”