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Pedro Perez—Former President, Tabacalera

A talk with the man behind Tabacalera, Spain's $7 billion tobacco company.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Tom Selleck, Winter 95/96

(continued from page 5)

CA: At its peak in the late 1970s and early '80s, when Cuba was exporting 90 to 100 million cigars, what was the highest quantity that you ever purchased?

Perez: In the past? In the Seventies? We bought about 52 million Cuban cigars.

CA: Of the 52 million cigars, how many were machine-made?

Perez: A very small percentage.

CA: There is a worldwide shortage of Cuban cigars, and most smokers of Cuban cigars will take anything they can get. What is it about your relationship with Cuba that has allowed Spain to be such a dominant partner?

Perez: We should start by saying that we, Tabacalera, invented the cigar. It was in our Seville factory that the cigar as we know it today was invented. It was there that the idea of the filler, binder, and wrapper was invented. The idea was then exported to Cuba.

CA: So Spaniards moved to Cuba and built the cigar factories?

Perez: Yes, they were Spaniards.

CA: I see. The cigar originated in Spain, but then production gravitated to Cuba where the tobacco was grown?

Perez: Right. This means that we always have been the first tobacco, leaf and cigar market for Cuba. It's been like that forever. It means also that for Cuba, we are their largest market. By far. As I mentioned, in rough terms, we buy 40 percent to 50 percent of the total cigar production and 75 percent of the total leaf production for export.

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