As 2017 dawned, Texas billionaire John Paul DeJoria had a $123 million problem.
The shampoo and liquor magnate had swept into Morocco nearly two decades earlier to drill wells and reap profits in a coastal kingdom that had never struck it rich on oil. He had ample reason for optimism: a history of professional serendipity, millions in personal investment, and, perhaps most importantly, a budding business partnership with Moroccan royalty.
But the oil never materialized, and the deal disintegrated. DeJoria’s Moroccan business partners sued him for fraud. After years in the Moroccan courts, a judge ordered DeJoria and his partner to pay 969,832,062.22 Moroccan Dirhams — $123 million.
It wasn’t that he couldn’t afford it. DeJoria founded the hair care giant John Paul Mitchell Systems, with annual revenue now estimated at over $1 billion, and Patrón Tequila, which sold last year for $5.1 billion. In 2017, when his Moroccan bill was coming due, he was worth $3.1 billion.