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Pepsi, where's this Bothell man's jet?

John Leonard took on the beverage giant 27 years ago. Now his story is a Netflix docuseries. #king5evening

SEATTLE — John Leonard of Bothell took on a giant.

"It really captivated me," he said.

Leonard was a 20-year-old college student and mountain guide when he saw a commercial for Pepsi back in 1996, touting the new "Pepsi Stuff" catalog. The ad campaign offered Pepsi merchandise as a reward for drinking lots of their product and sending in the labels. 

They also made a cheeky offer for a Harrier jet.

"Jet comes down, says 7-million Pepsi Points," Leonard said, describing the commercial. "So I went about trying to figure out how to get the 7-million points."

Turns out, Leonard found a loophole. 

"At the time, I thought this is a legitimate thing that I could pursue," he said.

The fine print in the rules detailed how he could purchase Pepsi Points for 10 cents each, allowing him to get the 23-million-dollar jet for just 700,000 bucks. 

"Pretty soon it stuck in my head," Leonard said. "I thought, I think that that's doable."

His adventurous friend and climbing partner, entrepreneur Todd Hoffman, wrote the check, including the required few extra bucks for postage and handling.

"That was hitting the lottery for me to find somebody that would actually invest in this," Leonard said.

But Pepsi basically said, "Nice try, but we were joking."

"The one thing I had at that age was time," Leonard recalled.

So he went public.

"These hundreds and hundreds of morning radio shows, just looking for content," he said.

Leonard took Pepsi to court.

"It consumed every waking moment that I had," Leonard said.

Leonard even got some help from an enthusiastic law student named Michael Avenatti.

"He was clearly talented, driven."

But, alas, David failed to slay Goliath. The dispute was settled by a judge who ruled in Pepsi's favor. 

"I've learned so many things along the way," Leonard said.

Now living in Washington, D.C., John Leonard looks back with some self-admiration.

"There's one level of me that appreciates the tenacity," he said. "There's another part of me that goes, 'Man, kid, what planet were you living on?'"

Leonard's story is now a Netflix docuseries called "Pepsi, Where's My Jet?"

"We had a lot of fun," he said. "It's up for the viewers to decide whether I came across as a fool or not."

Michael Avenatti would go on to represent adult film star Stormy Daniels against Donald Trump, and ultimately end up behind bars for wire fraud.

"I didn't have any inclination of kind of some of the darker things," Leonard said.

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix
(L to R) John Leonard and Todd Hoffman in "Pepsi, Where's My Jet?" Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Meanwhile, the bond between Leonard and his financial backer and friend, Hoffman, has endured. 

"It was the wisdom and the friendship that he brought along with it that to me was the real value," Leonard said.

They may not have bested the beverage giant, but they still conquer mountains together.

"Just crazy enough to go along on this ride with me," Leonard said. "Just a great, great, great ride."

"Pepsi, Where's My Jet?" is now streaming on Netflix.

KING 5's Evening celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email.

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