An Interview with Manuel Quesada

Owner, MATASA, makers of Fonseca, Licenciados, Romeo y Julieta, Jose Benito, Cubita, Royal Dominicana, Credo and Casa Blanca cigars.

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CA: In 1997, what is the approximate production of your premium cigar business?

Quesada: MATASA will produce this year close to 16 million cigars.

CA: What was it in 1991, a fraction, right?

Quesada: In 1991, 5 million.

CA: That's incredible. Do you seek continued expansion, and do you see significant growth continuing, or a more moderate growth pace? What's your production target in 1998?

Quesada: In 1998 we plan to grow maybe 5 or 7 percent.

CA: Does that include your new facilities?

Quesada: No sir, just MATASA.

CA: When does the new joint venture facility come on the scene?

Quesada: Tabacalera Nacionale Dominicana already started June 2. And Cotabex actually started three days ago, Monday.

CA: What kind of production are those factories going to have?

Quesada: When they come to full production, they should be doing 60,000 cigars a day at Tabacalera Nacionale Dominicana, and Cotabex should probably be double that level.

CA: What does that work out to on an annual basis?

Quesada: Fourteen million to 15 million cigars.

CA: Per factory?

Quesada: Per factory.

CA: Which brands do you own, and which do you manufacture?

Quesada: Fonseca.

CA: Fonseca is clearly your primary focus. What is the origin of the Fonseca brand?

Quesada: The Fonseca brand was registered in the United States in 1963 by a Cuban family in Miami. It was registered then and it came into MATASA's possession three years ago when we purchased the rights. But we have been involved with the Fonseca brand since 1974.

CA: So you've been making it since 1974?

Quesada: Yes, we started making it in 1974.

CA: Do you own other brands besides Fonseca?

Quesada: Yes sir, Jose Benito is our brand as well, Cubita is also our brand. Royal Dominicana is also our brand. Those four brands.

CA: But you also produce brands for Hollco-Rohr and Tabacalera.

Quesada: J.R. [Tobacco].

CA: J.R., that's Lew Rothman.

Quesada: And Mike's.

CA: And Mike's, which is owned by Oscar Boruchin. That's good to know, because many people don't realize you are involved. So, which brands do you make for each of those?

Quesada: I make Licenciados for Mike's.

CA: Licenciados has done well in our taste tests.

Quesada: For J.R., I make Casa Blanca, and for Hollco-Rohr, Romeo y Julieta and Credo.

CA: What was the volume for Licenciados this year?

Quesada: In '97, a million and a quarter.

CA: Casa Blanca?

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