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An Interview with Carlos Fuente Sr.

A discussion with the head of Arturo Fuente Inc., one of the world's largest producers of premium hand-rolled cigars.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Jack Nicholson, Summer 95

(continued from page 18)

C.A.: When will you know?

Fuente: In the next crop, when it comes out.

C.A.: Which is when? Wintertime?

Fuente: By wintertime next year. If the volume is there, then there is nothing to worry about. But we are still going to come out with Connecticut wrapper cigars. We have been successful with certain sizes using Connecticut wrapper. So actually, we are just going to come out with other sizes. We had the idea of maybe putting foil on half of the cigar, so when the consumer buys it, they know that it's not the regular one. It's still a Fuente, but a little different taste. If the Cameroon ever comes back, we're going to continue with the Cameroon.

C.A.: It seems like you have a lot of irons in the fire here. What do you see happening in the next few years for your company? You are beginning a very bold, extraordinarily innovative introduction with Opus X, which has unlimited potential, or limited only by your ability to produce it. It is priced at a level that is very attractive. Do you see anything beyond Opus X? How is A. Fuente going to be different five years from today? Is it more of the same, or are there other things on the drawing board? What are the dreams?

Fuente: As far as I can see, I think we have hit the top of the line now. We've done about as much as we can be doing. The Opus X farm is beyond my dreams. I think this is really the top of what anybody can dream; it's beyond that.

C.A.: Aren't you accomplishing decades of work in a few years?

Fuente: I can say I owe it to my son. He has dedicated himself to this project. I have to give all the credit to my son. It's his baby, I've left it up to him, because I always taught my kids that they've got to do in life what they like to do if they want to be successful. I always told my son that if he would go to college, the day that he would come out of the college--both of my sons, I told them--that I would give them a part of the company. I'll never forget the day my son graduated from high school. The first thing he told me when he came out in cap and gown: "Dad, do you still feel the way you've always promised?" I told him, what? I didn't even know what he was talking about. "That if I go into college, I can go into the factory later?" And I told him yes. He said, "I'm going to college." And so he did. And after he came out of college, I kept my promise. He was just a teenager, so I used to send him down to the Dominican Republic and work the farms. I wanted him to have a real knowledge of the tobacco.

And I'm very proud of him, and I can say today that my son knows tobacco better than I do. When he came with this idea about the farm--at that time he didn't know it was going to be Opus X--it was a very expensive venture. I knew the possibility could be there, so naturally I told him: "This is your baby. See what you can come out with it." So, for this farm, he has the credit. I can't take the credit. I've got to give him what is due.

C.A.: Of the approximately 10 million cigars, what percentage goes to the United States, and how much goes to the rest of the world?

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