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Edgar Cullman Jr.

CEO, General Cigar Company
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Demi Moore, Autumn 96

(continued from page 1)

Cullman: It wasn't that long. I spent from 1974 to about 1976 in a training mode in various positions throughout the company. I was in Puerto Rico. I was in Kingston, Jamaica; Tampa, Florida, where we had an operation; and in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, where we had a cigar factory. I was moving from our handmade factories to our machine-made factories. Throughout, I was learning everything about the cigar business. From tobacco growing and processing through cigar making.

CA: After that "training program," what happened in the next two or three years?

Cullman: My father constantly pushed me to do things. Just as I was getting comfortable understanding something, he would push me on to something else. I became head of the Connecticut operation, which was at that time the real estate business, the nursery business and the tobacco-growing business. All three divisions reported to one person, who was also head of the tobacco business; that influenced the emphasis that was given to the other two businesses. I was a sort of King Solomon who sorted out the needs of the various businesses. I learned a lot about the nursery business and the real estate business. From there, I went on to be president of General Cigar. I also had been head of all tobacco operations, where I worked with Alfons Mayer [the head tobacco buyer for the company].

CA: How big was General Cigar in terms of revenues when you became president in 1980?

Cullman: Less than half of what it is today. Our peak year was in 1969 when revenues were around $250 million. In the late '70s, it was struggling at around $50 million. But we've been growing rapidly. In 1994, revenues were about $88 million and climbed to $124 million in 1995, and in 1996, we expect at least $135 million.

CA: Let's go back for a minute. You are the fourth generation in the business. How did it start?

Cullman: My great-grandfather, who came from Germany, started in tobacco and later wrapper tobacco for cigars.

CA: When was the peak of Culbro tobacco farming operations in Connecticut?

Cullman: Well, I guess there were several golden eras. My grandfather started growing tobacco around 1910 in the Connecticut River Valley. That was when Connecticut Shade was introduced to the Connecticut valley. Prior to that he was dealing in tobaccos from around the world such as Indonesia and other countries.

CA: In an earlier interview with your father, he said that Culbro, at one point, had about 1,800 acres of tobacco?

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