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Smoking in the Boardroom

Many corporate executives still enjoy a great cigar.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Jack Nicholson, Summer 95

(continued from page 1)

He smoked cigarettes as a teenager, and began buying cheap cigars as cigarette supplements. He eventually dropped the cigarettes and took up cigars seriously when he became vice president and controller of Chrysler Corp. He smoked cigars with Robert A. Lutz, Chrysler's president and COO. "Bob gave me my first Cohiba," he recalls.

Steffen now smokes cigars regularly. Rather than stick to a favorite brand, Steffen delights in experimenting with new cigars. Every morning he selects a handful of smokes from his personal humidor or from his wine cellar, and brings his daily selections to work in a leather carrying case. He typically begins his smoking day with a mild choice, such as a Davidoff 4000 or 5000, and works upward. "As the day goes on, I like the cigar to get stronger," he says.

Gene Pressman, Co-chairman and Co-COO of Barneys New York, began smoking cigars 15 years ago. "Like anything else, you find your niche in what you like and you go with it. Unfortunately, the kind of cigar I ended up liking was a Cuban Davidoff 1000," he says. "It was strong, but it was small." Pressman smoked those cigars for about 10 years, buying them in Hong Kong and London, until they became scarce. Three years ago, he flew to Geneva and visited Davidoff's main store to search for more of his beloved smokes.

"I found they had about 15 boxes left of the 1000s. I took 'em all," he says. He paid $5 per cigar, a bargain considering the price that those irreplaceable boxes would bring today. "I have one left that I'll never smoke; [I keep it] as a memento at the bottom of one of my humidors," Pressman says. That prized cigar sits in the bottom tray of his three-tiered home humidor, joined by a handful of pre-Castro Cuban cigars, including a few Partagas rolled in 1957, along with some old Montecristos.

Pressman likes corona-sized cigars, but on rare occasions he'll try a larger cigar, such as a double corona. And he likes to smoke on a full stomach. He is confounded when friends light up a big cigar at 6:30 a.m. on the first tee. While Pressman occasionally smokes at work, he keeps his office humidor empty to reduce the temptation of smoking more than his limit of one or two a day. He's a runner and marathoner (he completed last fall's New York City marathon) and an enthusiastic collector of Bordeaux.

Pressman sees cigar smoking as a natural evolution of his wine collecting. "If you have a good meal and you have a great wine, you need a cigar," he says. "There are a lot of times when the wine is better than the meal, and there are times when the cigar is better than everything."

With his beloved Cuban Davidoffs no longer being made, he now smokes Cohibas. "I started smoking Cohibas a few years ago, and I didn't really like them that much," he says, "but now I really think they're one of the best cigars in the world." His wife, Bonnie, also enjoys Cohibas, although the ones she smokes are very thin, the size of cigarettes.

The only non-Cuban cigar that Pressman enjoys is La Gloria Cubana, which he says is superbly made: "There are only two things about a cigar: taste and how it draws. They really know how to roll a cigar."

Well, maybe three things. Fashion, of course, is Pressman's business. So the way a cigar looks in his mouth undeniably influences his choice in cigars. "The robusto is a nice cigar, but I think it's an ugly cigar," he says. "It really doesn't do it for me."

Alan "Ace" Greenberg is chairman of the board and executive committee of the investment banking firm of Bear Stearns & Co. Inc., but that's not evident upon first glance. His cluttered PC station looks nearly identical to the rows of stations that fill the floor at company headquarters. His phone receiver sits on his desk, off the hook, ready for action. His eyes are constantly moving, scanning the floor and the computer screen in front of him, and he uses words quickly and sparingly.


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