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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 20)

Cullman: I think it's ridiculous. But, I remember saying 10 years ago that there were 10 million Cuban cigars consumed [annually] in the United States, and people said I was ridiculous. I think there's at least that today.

CA: Do you have any specific plans or is it really so difficult now until you know what the policy is going to be in terms of being able to purchase Cuban tobacco in bulk? Do you think we may end up with parallel brands, where you buy a Cuban-made Partagas and then a Dominican-made Partagas, and so on and so forth?

Cullman: It's a very good question. There are so many unanswerable questions in that area, but our thought was when we actually sat down to negotiate with Tabacalera [Spain's tobacco monopoly] last year there were advantages it offered us, including that they wanted to develop a worldwide cigar company. There wasn't such a thing.

CA: It should be pointed out that Tabacalera purchases 50 percent of all Cuban cigar exports for the world, so they really dominate the Cuban cigar industry in the world as a distributor.

Cullman: Exactly. So, their interest in building a worldwide cigar company was attractive to us. There is no such thing; unlike the multinationals in the cigarette industry or in the liquor industry, there really isn't anything like it in the cigar industry. The second advantage was their closeness to the Cuban tobacco industry. And, quite frankly, we would love to have seen a partnership we could have achieved, since they claim to have ownership of the Partagas brand outside of Cuba and the United States, and we have the Partagas brand in the United States. We thought it would be very interesting to see, as an experimental thing, if we could ever have gotten together. I hope it still may work. To me, it would be interesting to see the sale of the Partagas brand in Spain, with our Partagas right next to their Cuban Partagas, distinguished enough so that the consumer would not be confused and it would be obvious that our Partagas was a Dominican Partagas. It only strengthens the brand. That's how I'd love to see it happen in the United States. None of us, as manufacturers in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Honduras and other places, are going to give up our factories just because Cuban cigars are available.

CA: Of course. Well, there will always be great demand for your product.

Cullman: I hope so. That is our thought as well.

CA: But it could end up that the Cuban factories are privatized and that Mr. Moneybags, whether it's Philip Morris or General Motors, or whoever is able to pay the highest price, becomes the supplier to the world market, including the United States, of Partagas or Cohiba or Montecristo, and you end up either being able to or not being able to negotiate a distribution agreement in these markets. Conversely, because Macanudo is your brand, you have the ability to take that to the world market.

Cullman: Yes. It's very hard to know how the world will develop in this area.

CA: Well, it's very exciting.

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