Who is John Leonard – and did he get the Pepsi harrier jet?

John Leonard stars in the Netflix docuseries Pepsi, Where’s My Jet, which follows his attempts to get the soda company to give him a military plane

Netflix documentary miniseries Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? follows two friends, John Leonard and Todd Hoffman, as they come up with a rash idea to sue Pepsi for a military plane. The incredible true story took place in the 1990s, when Pepsi poured millions into advertising to win over Coca-Cola drinkers.

John Leonard

Who is John Leonard?

John Leonard was a college student when he acquired the multi-billion dollar multinational soft drink company PepsiCo in the 1990s. Leonard saw the Pepsi ad, released in 1996, that showed consumers could earn Pepsi points by purchasing bottles or cans of soda and redeeming the points for various rewards.

The ad showed that 90 Pepsi points could get you a t-shirt, 120 points could be redeemed for sunglasses, and 1,400 points were worth a leather jacket. At the end of the ad, a teenage boy lands a Harrier Jet outside a school and jokes “surely better than the bus.” Then, crucially, text flashes saying the jet can be traded for 7 million Pepsi points.

It would have cost Leonard millions to buy enough cans of Pepsi in bulk, pay warehouses to store them, and hire staff to peel the receipts—disheartened, he found another way to beat the system.

John Leonard and Todd Hoffman in the Arctic

Pepsi has also stated that Pepsi points can be purchased for 10 cents each, so Leonard teamed up with his friend and business owner Todd Hoffman. The pair met while rock climbing, and despite Todd being two decades older, they became close friends.

Leonard and Hoffman tried to give Pepsi their check for $700,000 but were turned down by the company saying the ad was an obvious joke. The case finally came to court in 1999.

Did John Leonard get a Harrier jet?

No, John was unsuccessful in court, the case, which became known as the Pepsi Points Case, was presided over by Judge Kimba Wood. While Leonard claimed he was entitled to a Harrier jet because there was no disclaimer on the ad, Wood ruled in favor of PepsiCo.

She said no reasonable person would believe the ad was a serious offer. Hoffman stated that Wood supported Pepsi in the case because she was a corporate lawyer.

What happened to John Leonard?

It’s been 25 years since Leonard took on Pepsi, and he seems to have gotten over his lack of Harrier jet. Now 48 years old, he lives in Talkeetna, Alaska and works as a National Park Ranger.

He has a wife named Dottie and the couple have a daughter and son. He and Hoffman have remained friends and recently embarked on an expedition to climb Mount Vinson, Antarctica’s tallest mountain.

Speaking to The Guardian this month, Hoffman said of Leonard: “He is demonstrably insane. He has a job. He has a beautiful family. He has a house and pays a mortgage and goes to work every day, but he really has mental things going on. Way off the beaten track.”

Leonard and Hoffman can both be seen in the Netflix documentary – in the trailer, Leonard explains that all he really wanted was the jet. He has since said that he really believed he would be successful and did not pursue Pepsi because he wanted publicity.

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