Cigar Aficionado

Chairman of C.A.O. Leaves Company

Gary Hyams, who has been chairman of C.A.O. International Inc. for four years, is stepping down from the position effective today. Hyams is the fourth major executive to depart the company since November.

Hyams was instrumental in bringing C.A.O. together with Scandinavian Tobacco Group, the maker of Henri Wintermanns cigars. The Søborg, Denmark, company bought C.A.O. in January 2007. At the time C.A.O. was owned and operated by the Ozgener family and was headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.

"I am grateful to him for his dedication to the company and to all that he contributed toward the integration of General Cigar and C.A.O. into the new Scandinavian Tobacco Group," said Dan Carr, president of General Cigar, in a statement. "Gary has done an exceptional job of preparing my staff and me for the future and we remain committed to continuing the momentum that he and his colleagues have built with C.A.O."

Said Hyams, "Being at the helm of C.A.O. for the past four years has meant a lot to me and I am proud of what my colleagues and I have accomplished." Hyams, formerly a managing director of Henri Wintermans U.K., once co-owned Loretta Cigars London Ltd., and in his earlier years was a songwriter.

Scandinavian Tobacco acquired C.A.O. in January 2007. In April 2010, Scandinavian and Swedish Match AB announced they would merge their cigar and tobacco operations, creating one of the largest cigar companies in the world. Scandinavian emerged with a 51 percent ownership, and Anders Colding Friis, chief executive of Scandinavian, became head of the merged company, which kept the name Scandinavian Tobacco Group.

This fall, Scandinavian moved C.A.O.'s operations from Nashville to Richmond, Virginia, where General Cigar Co., the maker of Macanudo, Partagas and other cigars, is headquartered. In the process, many people working at C.A.O. left the company, including Jon Huber, director of lifestyle marketing, Mike Conder, senior vice president of marketing, and president Tim Ozgener, who had served as the face of the brand for many years.

"CAO always seemed to be a small cigar company with a big taste. Over the past few years their prices have gone up and they've become just another big brand name company cranking out the product. Too bad - but there's a lot of other great smokes out there a more reasonable prices. RCR - Seoul, Korea" —February 4, 2011 05:40 AM
"I lost interest in CAO after Ozgener and Huber left the company. Sometimes it's the guys behind the company that make the cigars exciting and great. CAO has a lot of great cigars, but now they are just another stick in a big pile of logs. I'm sure Ozgener and Huber will start something new with Sam Leccia of NUB. Hopefully it is sooner than later. I hope they read this. George Commack NY" —February 1, 2011 01:50 AM