Billionaire Don Levin has made his fortune by capitalizing on an often-overlooked sector of the marijuana industry—rolling paper.
- Levin owns popular rolling-paper brands such as E-Z Wider, Zig-Zag, OCB, and JOB. He also owns several factories that produce paper from hemp, wood, bamboo, and rice.
- His heavy investment in the paper industry has amassed him an estimated $1.7 billion, according to Forbes.
- The paper billionaire has spent his career quietly building an empire around the marijuana industry.
- “We’re the largest manufacturer of rolling papers in the world. We are the whole supply chain,” Levin says.
Why it’s news
While paper has long been considered a successful business with high profit margins, analysts studying the tobacco and marijuana industry have often struggled to understand its size and scope. Many paper mills are privately held in a supply chain that crosses the globe.
Levin’s company Republic owns around one-third of the rolling paper market in North America. Wholesale sales across North America are estimated to be about $550 million yearly. Globally, those sales could be as much as $2 billion to $3 billion a year. While Levin has not confirmed his company’s financials, Republic brings in an estimated $650 million in revenue, Forbes reports.
Though the billionaire has built a massive empire over his career, Levin remains humble and mindful of the workers who helped him create his business.
“I’m certainly not the king of rolling papers,” he says. “This has been a lot of work by a lot of people, and for me to take credit would be wrong and insulting.”
Backing up a bit
Levin entered the business in the 1970s when he began selling rolling papers in a boutique shop. After a short time in the industry, Levin realized he could make more money as a distributor and began building his own supply chain. He became a distributor himself, selling rolling papers to smoke shops around the Midwest.
Through hard work, ingenuity, and a little luck, Levin built relationships with different suppliers worldwide and amassed a following of customers looking for specific products. Eventually, he began supplying various cannabis products like roach clips and bongs.
By the end of the 1970s, Levin’s business was bringing in around $10 million in revenue, equivalent to $50 million today. The company took a hit in the next few years as the federal government began to crack down on cannabis paraphernalia. Levin reverted to selling exclusively rolling papers, Forbes reports.
Levin continued building his empire, acquiring Odet-Cascadec-Bolloré (OCB) rolling papers in 2000. Shortly after, he purchased the paper mills, Papeteries du Léman and Papeteries des Vosges. With these new acquisitions, Levin now controlled the manufacturing of paper, the production of the booklets, and the distribution of the product. He was the entire supply chain.
Since then, Levin’s empire has ballooned as Republic acquired several other major paper brands. Republic now includes Top, Bali Shag, and E-Z Wider as some of its brands.