Cigar Aficionado's Hall of Fame
Six men who dedicated their lives to building the cigar industry -- and improving the cigars we smoke
From the Print Edition:
10th Anniversary Issue, Nov/Dec 02
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When the U.S. embargo was imposed on Cuba in 1962, Villazon & Co. was 100 percent dependent on Cuban tobacco. While other companies sold their inventories, Villazon, led by Frank Llaneza, began buying. The company flourished, a testament to the tenacity of a man once described in The Wall Street Journal as "the last grand old man of the cigar business as it was carried over from Cuba."
Llaneza was one of the pioneers in Honduras, and, along with men such as Angel Oliva Sr., literally carved farms from the wild. He created Honduras American Tobacco Co. in 1963 with the help of Oliva, making such powerhouse brands as Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey. The company is the largest cigarmaker in Honduras, with factories in Danl" and Cofradia.
Llaneza and his partner, Dan Blumenthal, sold Villazon to General Cigar Co. in 1997 for $81.4 million. Today, Llaneza has a quieter role in the company. Looking back, he is characteristically modest. "I was very lucky," he says. The truth is that his success was built upon vision and hard work.
Chairman, J.C. Newman Cigar Co., Tampa, Florida
Newman served in the Army Air Corps as an airplane mechanic during the Second World War, then joined the family business permanently. J. C. died in 1958, and Stanford took over. That year, he made one of the company's most important deals, acquiring the Cuesta-Rey brand. For the next two decades, J.C. Newman would be regarded as one of the best machine-made cigarmakers in the United States.
In 1986, with the cigar market uncertain, Newman bought out his relatives, then struck a fortuitous deal with the Fuente family. The Fuentes began making handmade cigars for the Newmans, and the Newmans later began distributing the Fuentes' cigars. The arrangement has been a boon to both families.
Stanford Newman often quotes his father: "If you make cigars of quality, you can stay in business for another 100 years, but if you make something cheap, somebody can always make them cheaper and you'll go out of business in six months." Still active in his ninth decade (his book, Cigar Family, was published by Forbes in 1999), Stanford works alongside his sons Eric and Robert, heirs to the Newman empire.
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