Michael Chiusano, the president of DomRey Cigar Inc., a unit of Davidoff and the maker of the Cusano and Cuvée cigar brands, left the company he founded in 1995.
"I am no longer with the company," Cusano said over the phone this morning, reading from a prepared statement. "I have chosen to pursue interests outside of DomRey. I wish the company the best of luck. I have no further comment."
DomRey is a firmly entrenched player in the bargain and middle price point segments of the premium cigar industry. The company had sales of five million cigars in 2008.
Chiusano, a former pension fund manager, took a trip to the Dominican Republic in 1995 and brought home a handful of unbanded Dominican cigars he had enjoyed on his trip. He made up his own cigar band using letterhead from his financial company and handed one to David Garafalo, owner of Two Guys Smoke Shop. Chiusano (whose name is pronounced "coo-zahn-oh") entered the cigar business, and survived the fallout from the end of the cigar boom and prospered.
DomRey had many innovations in the cigar business, bar coding all of its cigars, for example, and targeting cigar shops with a phone sales team from Bradenton, Florida. And it won smokers over by charging a value price for its product.
"If you look at our very loyal fan base, it's the everyday smoker, not the weekend warrior," Chiusano said in 2008. "They say price is what you pay, value is what you get. You don't have to pay a lot to get great stuff."
In June 2009, Oettinger Davidoff Group, the owner of the Davidoff and Avo cigar brands, acquired Cusano Cigars for undisclosed terms.
An executive at Davidoff of Geneva headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, said all comment on the matter had to come from Dr. Reto Cina, the head of Davidoff. Cigar Aficionado was awaiting comment via email, which, due to time differences in Europe, wasn't expected until Thursday at the earliest.
This is a breaking story, and Cigar Aficionado will get more information on the ground in Santiago, Dominican Republic, as it develops.