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Interview: Frank Llaneza of Villazon

A discussion with the president of Villazon & Co., makers of Hoyo de Monterrey and Punch.
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
John Travolta, Jan/Feb 99

(continued from page 5)

Llaneza: During a period when I was making Benson & Hedges cigars for Philip Morris in the 1950s, I used to have to go to New York twice a year to speak with then vice president Joe Cullman and the people at Philip Morris. I was there one year and we just couldn't do any business there. But somebody told me to go see Danny. So, I went to see him and we got together then. We were both pretty hungry.

CA: Do you remember what year that was?

Llaneza: I was married already. It had to be about '56 or '57, right in there.

CA: Was he involved in the Preferred Havana purchase with you?

Llaneza: No. The Bances deal with Danny came after we had purchased Preferred Havana, and he helped us to develop the Bances brand after the purchase. But his business was called Danby. When my brother José retired in the mid-1950s and stepped out, we rejuggled the company. Danny was in charge of Danby, and then, Danny became a major partner with me in Villazon.

CA: Was that 1958?

Llaneza: Yeah, right around there.

CA: So your involvement with Danny began before the Cuban revolution?

Llaneza: Yes. Danny was buying a lot of Cuban cigars at that time and had contacts with a lot of Cuban manufacturers. He was selling the Cuban cigars through his store in New York. When the embargo came, we were already working together. Danny had helped us build Bances up to a pretty good production level. Philip Morris had left the cigar business by that point, and the slack in our factory was taken over by Bances. It became a major factor in our production. That was our premium cigar.

CA: When did the Palicio business become part of your company?

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