“When I started doing this story,” I say to Hickman, “when I pitched it, I said, Mike Tyson’s starting a weed company. Do you still think of it that way, at this point? Or was the weed always just the thing that was supposed to get you to the thing?”
“It was never a weed company,” Hickman says, laughing. “That was just the easiest thing for people to gravitate to.”
I wasn’t sure if this was a weed story anymore. What it felt like was a story about a sultan who falls asleep for years, and while he sleeps his subjects build a city of wonders around him, and all anybody can talk about is how pleased the sultan will be when he wakes to see it, this city built in his name.
Back in October, when Hickman sat in this room, all you could hear was drilling and hammering, the sound of contractors transforming this building to suit Tyson Holistic’s needs. Now it’s a podcast studio.
Meanwhile, Hickman is meeting architects for Tyson Ranch. He’s negotiating the company’s first round of outside financing. For the moment, he and two other partners have financed everything personally. He thinks they’ll exit within the next few years. They’ve already had offers. He names a big private-equity firm, says it’s off the record. “The offers,” he says, “are already staggering, for what we’ve created.”
He says they have big bands “standing in line” to play the next Kind Fest, scheduled for this fall. He says they’re now buying “biomass” from a grower in Kentucky—bales and bales of pot, bred with low THC so they can transport it across state lines—and moving it to manufacturing plants they’re building in Henderson, Nevada, and Nashville, Tennessee, and Pueblo, Colorado, where they’ll turn it into pharma-grade CBD isolate and sell it to cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies.
Hickman says he’s in negotiations right now to build another Tyson Ranch, on the border of Florida and Georgia, two states that don’t currently allow recreational pot. They will. But even if they don’t, Tyson Ranch will still put a wave pool there.
Even if the regulatory pendulum swings back in California, Hickman will get something from that 418 acres out by Desert Hot Springs.
“I’ll have a Great Wolf Lodge for kids,” he says. “I’ve got TopGolf. I’ll have the longest lazy river. They can drink piña coladas and float around all they want. I have a stadium that will house UFC events, boxing events, big concerts. I’ll have a university teaching people agriculture and how to run businesses, that’s in a curriculum from UCLA. Even if I have to cut marijuana out of it—I still got a pretty cool business to run out there.”
And it all seems so perfect and it all seems so positive and stigma-free, and it also seems like the last remnants of the hippie dream being sucked down deep into the lungs of 21st-century capitalism—and meanwhile here’s Mike Tyson on a couch in the next room, in his dad jeans and his big white dad sneakers and a button-down shirt printed with pictures of a windblown ocean.
A minute ago, he was watching Patrick Roy and Mario Lemieux go at it on YouTube, but now he’s just puffing a joint and looking contemplatively at one of those channels that show nothing but ultra-HD drone-overflight videos of beautiful places seen from the air. A shot of London on a clear bright day gives way to the coast of some Pacific island, thick green bushes against tall stone cliffs. Mike Tyson thinks about how humbling it all is, looking down at bushes that are probably bigger than he is. Mike Tyson wonders what kinds of animals there are in those bushes. Mike Tyson imagines what it would be like, to be there under the cliffs, on beaches inaccessible by land.