Alan Rubin, the founder of Alec Bradley Cigars, has acquired Lars Tetens Brands. Rubin and Lars Tetens, the creator of the flavored cigars bearing his name, have organized a new company called World 180 aimed at reinvigorating Lars Tetens cigars and bringing the brand “back to prominence.” With this deal, Alec Bradley Cigars will become the sole distributor of Lars Tetens cigars.
World 180, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is majority-owned by Rubin, with Tetens having a minority stake. The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, has been in the works for nearly one year.
The Lars Tetens cigars will be made in a new factory, and Rubin and Tetens intend to market them worldwide. While most of the cigars will be flavored, some will be sold without additional flavorings.
“Lars is iconic,” Rubin told Cigar Aficionado in an interview this morning. He met Tetens about 12 years ago at a cigar shop in Pennsylvania. “The guy is incredible—that’s why we wanted to get the deal done.”
Tetens, who said he has been approached by “multiple companies,” about a potential deal, felt a kinship with Rubin. “I didn’t want to be part of a corporation,” Tetens told Cigar Aficionado this morning. “I wanted to be part of a family.”
Tetens, who prefers the term “conditioned” to flavored when describing his cigars, says he was selling Lars Tetens cigars back in the early-1980s, cigars he rolled himself and sold in plastic bags. The brand has been made in a host of places over the years—New York, Venezuela, Pennsylvania—and at one point had a huge following in the United States with dozens of varieties.
The cigars were once exceptionally hot products, but in recent years the brand’s production has slowed considerably. “People wanted his products, but they couldn’t get them,” said Rubin. They were made, he says, “in small-batch quantities; made for friends,” while Tetens focused on other businesses, such as his line of gourmet spices and leather goods.
Tetens said he has more than 50 cigar lines, but added that the new venture would start with around six varieties. “We’re starting out with all predicate product,” said Rubin, referring to cigar brands that are grandfathered into the U.S. market in the eyes of the FDA.
The FDA has flavored cigars in its crosshairs. In March, the agency announced it would be moving ahead with a proposal to ban sales of flavored tobacco products, including flavored cigars. This deal is a vote of confidence in the flavored cigar market by Rubin.
“We wanted to do something that would add great excitement,” said Rubin. “I just want Lars to be Lars. I want him to be the artist, the performer, the chef. He truly is a savant.”
This isn’t Rubin’s first venture into flavored cigars. “Many years ago we had gourmet dessert cigars on the market,” he said. “This is worlds apart. This is a game changer.”