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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

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Founder, Oliva Tobacco Co., Tampa, Florida

Angel Oliva Sr. drawing portrait
When Angel Oliva Sr. emigrated from his native Cuba to Tampa, Florida, in 1925 at the age of 18, he carried the barest essentials: $50 cash, a small suitcase and tobacco seeds sewn inside his belt.

Nine years later, Oliva founded the Oliva Tobacco Co., and those metaphoric seeds grew into a very literal tobacco empire, one that today provides the tobacco for many of the finest handmade brands in the world, including Arturo Fuente, Punch, La Gloria Cubana and El Rey del Mundo.

Throughout his life, Oliva relied on hard work and 20/20 foresight. In 1960, preparing for the imminent embargo, he agreed to acquire 3.85 million pounds of Cuban tobacco, which would sustain his clients through the next few years. At the same time, he began to cultivate land for alternative sources of tobacco -- first in north Florida, Connecticut and Honduras, and later, as his empire grew, in Ecuador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Among numerous other accolades, he received a Chamber of Commerce Service Award in 1963 for expanding the boundaries of the tobacco market.

"My business allowed me to do for my family the way I always dreamed," he said. When he died in 1996, at the age of 89, it was his family that succeeded him. His son John runs the company now -- and after him, John Jr., Oliva's grandson, stands ready to take over.

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