The cigar industry has lost another one of its great tobacco men. Cigar veteran Estelo Padrón passed away on Monday morning, February 9, at Coral Gables Hospital in Florida near Miami. He was 87 years old.
"It's a big loss for all of us," said his nephew Jorge Padrón, president of Padrón Cigars. "We are a united family and this is, of course, very sad."
He was best known in the premium cigar industry for his production management of Villazon's HATSA (Honduran-American Tobacco S.A.) factories in Honduras, where he oversaw all aspects of tobacco production, from blending to bulking to fermentation. He also was in charge of development and production of the non-Cuban Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey brands.
Born in Cuba in 1927, Estelo expatriated to Spain in 1969 before his brother, Padrón company patriarch Jose Orlando Padrón, brought Estelo from Spain to Nicaragua that same year. Estelo joined the Padrón family cigar business and stayed on until 1971. Shortly after, he moved to Honduras to join Villazon and its HATSA factories. At Villazon, he managed all aspects of cigar production and was instrumental in maintaining the quality and consistency of Villazon's flagship brands: Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey.
Estelo eventually gained a financial stake in Villazon, along with owners Daniel Blumenthal and Frank Llaneza. In 1998, General Cigar Co. acquired Villazon and its factories. With the acquisition, Estelo became general manager. He was promoted to vice president of Villazon in 2004 and finally retired in 2009.
"Estelo was already there by the time I came along in 1980," said Sherwin Seltzer, retired vice president of trade development for General Cigar. "He was a character, and I liked him a lot. But he ran the factory with an iron fist and was a terrific tobacco man."
Retired for six years, Estelo was recently battling illness before he was admitted to the hospital on Sunday night where he passed away the next morning. He was finally laid to rest yesterday, February 10.
"Estelo was a great person and dedicated to his craft as well as to his family," said his brother José Orlando Padrón (translated by his son Jorge). "He was a great family man. That is how were all brought up."
Estelo Padrón leaves behind a wife, daughter and two grandchildren.
"There is only one way to make our cigars," Estelo is known to have said. "The nineteenth century way."