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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 4)

The advent of antismoking laws in the 1980s changed the smoking atmosphere at American Express, but Linen still smokes everyday in his Manhattan office. He'll either pick a suitable cigar from his office humidor, or trek to his local J.R. Tobacco or Nat Sherman store and ask for a recommendation. When he lights up in his office, he makes sure to close his door and turn on his air purifier. No one complains. "My staff has been with me long enough, so they put up with me," he jokes.

Linen enjoys a variety of cigars. "I smoke half a dozen brands," he says, naming Dunhill, Davidoff, Partagas, H. Upmann and Punch among his favorites. He also smokes Cuban cigars on occasion. "I like a medium-sized cigar, and sometimes I like a robusto. I tend to savor a mild, aromatic brand, and I smoke one or two a day in the office and one or two on the golf course," he says. Linen is a nine handicapper, and the cigars taste even better when he's on the links. "I rarely smoke at home, unless we have a dinner party," he says. "A good cigar after dinner is always appropriate."

Philip H. Geier Jr., chairman and CEO of the Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc., a $2 billion advertising and communications holding company, can't smoke at home, so he smokes in his midtown Manhattan office. He lobbies fiercely for the rights of his fellow cigar smokers. In 1986 he wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times entitled "Where Smokers Can Breathe Free," opposing restricted smoking in public areas.

"It's a lot easier for the chairman of a company to enjoy a cigar and for other people having to put up with it, than somebody who's fourth or fifth in the company and loves cigars," he admits. But Geier is not immune to antismoking fervor--even in his own office.

"One time we had somebody at the company complaining to the health department about the smoke," he says, savoring a Montecristo in his spacious conference room overlooking the Avenue of the Americas. "I said it's harassment. If I could have found out who it was, you could be sure they weren't going to be around."

Geier began smoking Cuban cigars 20 years ago when he attended a business dinner in England. "It was one of those long English dinners where everybody started smoking cigars, so I tried one, and I enjoyed it. There was Port, and it was just the perfect combination."

He smokes two or three cigars a day, usually Montecristos. He has a robusto at around 11 a.m. and follows his lunch with a Churchill for the afternoon. For him, cigars are the perfect tool to help him think over a problem or ease tension.

"You can sit back and enjoy it, take two or three minutes and savor it, and you think through whatever problems or situations. It's a nice relaxer when you've got some tension going. And in our business there's tension every minute of the day."

He spends around 30 percent of his time outside the United States, where the smoking environment is far more open. Since he can no longer smoke on most flights, he likes to light up right when he hits the airport, which can make taking a cab a problem. "If the cab driver says, 'No smoking,' I immediately say I'll take the next cab. Other times I'll say, 'Do you want a big tip?' The guy says yes. Then I'm going to smoke the cigar. No problem. Even with the No Smoking sign inside the cab."

Geier's 1986 article is even more relevant today. The antismoking fervor has reached such a peak that Geier no longer poses with a cigar for his photo in the annual report. And when a business magazine takes a picture of him, he leaves his cigar in the humidor. "I changed because of the possible irritation," he explains.


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