Carlos Fuente Jr. has become one of the most recognizable people in the cigar business. While at the helm of Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia., he has seen the company rise to one of the preeminent positions in the industry.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
John F. Kennedy, Nov/Dec 98
(continued from page 5)
I was deposed at least three times. It seemed like psychological warfare. One time I had to change all my plans. I was told it would be a day of being deposed in Tampa, so I went there expecting to be back in a couple of days. It ended up being over a week. They were asking about things that had nothing to do with the cigars. And that happened three times.
The legal cost to the family was unbelievable; it was well over $2 million. And it's still going on. But it's not about money. It was about defending our honor.
The first day we found out about it, my father walked into my office and said, "Carlito, we are going to have a fight. People have tried before to take away our company, but I won't allow someone to take our company away from us. This is ours. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror every day." Even though it was going to be difficult, we knew what we had to do. It's not easy, but when you have a father like I do...he was the pillar for the entire family.
CA: Many of the other large cigar companies have been actively creating new brands in recent years. But your company has really stuck to the basics. Other than Fuente Fuente OpusX, you haven't launched a new brand owned by your company in several years. Why is that?
Fuente:Fuente is our family name, and because our name is on the cigars we make, we have tried to stay focused on that. In fact, it is the thing that motivates me to want to get to the factory. A Fuente cigar to me is the only thing I have. When I smoke one of our ci-gars, it's a bridge to my grandfather; it's our heritage, it's part of me. That's why we've been focusing on what we have, not trying to start up a bunch of new brands or new cigars.
CA: What are some of the other brands that you do produce for other people?
Fuente:Most of the cigars that we manufacture are either owned by our family totally, partially, or made under license. Some of the brands don't carry the Fuente name, like Montesino. Montesino is an old brand that we've been manufacturing for many years. We also produce Ashton, and that's a joint venture between us and Robbie Levin of Holt's Cigar Co. We also have Bauza, which is a brand owned by our company [marketed by Oscar Boruchin of Mike's Cigars in Miami]. And we make several brands for the Newman family, under license with the Newman family, such as Cuesta-Rey, La Unica and Diamond Crown. We also make Savinelli ELR and several others.
CA: Have you ever tried blending Cuban tobacco into an Arturo Fuente or Fuente Fuente OpusX blend? And if so, how did it taste?
Fuente:No, sir, I have not. But I would be very curious to find out what would happen.
CA: There are very few successful privately held companies. And in the cigar business, your leading competitors today are larger publicly held corporations. How does your family divide up the responsibilities between family members?
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