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Inside Cuban Cigars—A Talk With Cubatabaco Head Francisco Padron

Cigar Aficionado meets with Cubatabaco's top official, Francisco Padron, to discuss Cuba's cigar industry.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Rush Limbaugh, Spring 94

(continued from page 3)

C.A.: So you are supplying the brand to them, and you have worked it out to continue the flow. What about the situation with the French tobacco monopoly, Seita? There was a lawsuit regarding Montecristo and Partagas....
Padron: We are still in the courts.

C.A.: But I thought that you lost one of the lawsuits?
Padron: Yes, but we are now in the upper courts.

C.A.: Have they decided what you have to pay in damages? I heard more than $10 million....
Padron: No. No. They are asking for the sky. The stars. Everything.

C.A.: What are they asking?
Padron: I don't remember exactly. I don't want to even think about it.

C.A.: What is the lawsuit about? Who owns the name?
Padron: They want to get money for the use of Montecristo and Partagas since we introduced those brand names in France. This is an incredible thing because I can show you the figures. Montecristo and Partagas were nothing in the '60s and early '70s. We made the reputation of Montecristo and Partagas.

C.A.: As I remember, Montecristo was introduced into the French market around 1973, which is when it took off there?
Padron: Yes. Yes. We created the brand name, not them.

Let me tell you something. Because we lost that fight in the courts in France, and we are now in the higher courts on appeal, we took Montecristo, Partagas, Ramon Allones, La Gloria Cubana, Por Larrañaga and four others off the market.

C.A.: You took those off the market in France?
Padron: Yes. Yes. So, as for our strategy for France, given the shortage in brands there, we decided to put there whatever they ask for in the other brands. Let's see what will happen in that market.

C.A.: What did you put in those markets?
Padron: No. No. We just decided to increase the supply of the brands left in the market. What happened is that we are selling more cigars than the year before. It was incredible. This is not just a story, here are the figures. For example, El Rey del Mundo was up 200 percent. Hoyo de Monterrey was increased 200 percent. All our other brands in the French market have had tremendous increases. People who know how to smoke cigars are not going to smoke something else if they can find another Havana cigar.

So, I am very quiet. I took a chance in my second market, and it was all a success. I am not worried about the brand name. This is a different thing. When we started on this new direction in France, I forecasted that it would take us two years to get back our sales figures there, but to my surprise it happened on the very first year. And now we are selling more than the year before.

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