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An Interview With Carlos Toraño

President, Central American Tobacco Corp.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Bill Murray, Nov/Dec 2004

(continued from page 6)

Q: You couldn't get consistency not owning the factories?

A: Absolutely. You've gotta have control. We basically sat down and we gave ourselves 10 years, because to make the brand takes a long time. Of course, we have a lot of money or whatever it is in the bank, but in 10 years we'll lose our shirt. If we sold 18 million cigars in '97, we sold 2 million in '98.

Q: Did you really go from 18 million to 2 million?

A: Absolutely.

Q: Wow.

A: And even though we're now back to 14 to 15 million, we're doing very good cigars.

Q: What's it like dealing with a drop like that?

A: Scary. [Laughs.] But again, we made a commitment that we're gonna do it, that we were doing it for 20 years, this is what the family had done, this is now our name that we're gonna build.

The other thing that we realized is, yes, we are very much involved in tobacco, yes, I bought a lot of cigars, yes, I can recognize a good cigar, [but] I don't know really how to manufacture cigars, so I need somebody that I trust implicitly, completely, who can become my partner. And this is where Fidel Olivas comes into play. I know Fidel for 20 years. He was Nestor Plasencia's right-hand man. He's a very good manufacturer of cigars. He worked over there in Nicaragua in the 1980s, and I knew him when he became associated with Tabacalera. And Fidel calls me one day and says, "I'm not happy with the Spaniards. I quit." I said, "Fidel, you just called at the right time. [Laughs.] Let's get together." And we became partners on the manufacturing side.

Q: You make cigars for other companies. Tell me about that.

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