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Cigar Aficionado's Hall of Fame

Six men who dedicated their lives to building the cigar industry -- and improving the cigars we smoke
CA Staff
From the Print Edition:
10th Anniversary Issue, Nov/Dec 02

EDGAR M. CULLMAN

Chairman, General Cigar Holdings Inc., New York City

Edgar Cullman has won a string of tobacco industry accolades, but his greatest pride comes from the consistency of his Macanudo cigars. Cullman, 84, has called the success of the brand "the most rewarding experience of my life" -- a weighty statement from a man with the following curriculum vitae.

Edgar Cullman drawing portrait
After graduating from Yale University in 1940, Cullman worked for the Underwriters Trust Co., and at the advent of the Second World War he went to Washington to serve as a business analyst for a unit of the Treasury Department. After the war, he entered the tobacco business, joining Cullman Bros. Inc., the family's Hartford, Connecticut, tobacco farm. He also worked for H. Anton Bock, a New York City cigar company, where he learned to handle tobacco and roll cigars. By the late '40s, he had assumed control of the company's Connecticut wrapper operations and Florida tobacco interests. He also devoted time to the family's investment banking firm, also called Cullman Bros.

In 1961, Cullman decided that the future lay in cigar making, so he assembled a group of investors and bought General Cigar Co. He was 43. At that time, General's main business was machine-made cigars, including White Owl, William Penn and Robert Burns. The company bought its first premium brand, Gold Label, in 1963, and the Temple Hall factory in Jamaica in 1969. The sale included Macanudo, a brand that wasn't sold in the United States at the time. Cullman launched Macanudo in 1971 with the slogan "the ultimate cigar." He purchased the U.S. rights to Partagas from Cuba's Cifuentes family in 1974, and the two brands have anchored General's premium cigar business ever since.

In 2000, Swedish Match AB acquired 64 percent of General Cigar, but Cullman and his son, chief executive officer Edgar M. Cullman Jr., manage the company. The elder Cullman still reports to his offices every day. His preferred smoke is a Macanudo Vintage No. IV, but on special occasions, he'll dip into his treasure trove of pre-Castro Cubans. And he enjoys his work. "I think it's the most romantic business," he says. "I love it. I love the business."

ZINO DAVIDOFF

Founder, Davidoff et Cie., Geneva

Zino Davidoff drawing portrait
Zino Davidoff became a man of the world, but his beginnings were humble. Born in Kiev, Russia, in 1906, Davidoff, along with his family, fled the pogroms in 1912, settling in Geneva. His father, Henry, opened a tobacco shop there, which was frequented by Russian exiles, including Vladimir Lenin.

Davidoff's father urged him to visit tobacco lands, and after stints in Argentina and Brazil, the 20-year-old landed in Cuba, where he spent two years on a tobacco farm. His Cuban years gave him an appreciation for Havanas, which he would spread like gospel for the rest of his life.


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