Tim Ozgener, the last member of the founding Ozgener family to work at cigar producer C.A.O. International Inc., is no longer with the company. Ozgener worked with C.A.O. for 16 years. He has been president of the company since 2006, and for many years was the face behind the brand, which makes a wide variety of cigars, including C.A.O. La Traviata.
In an exclusive interview with Cigar Aficionado, Ozgener said, "I am leaving C.A.O. as a result of the merger between Swedish Match and S.T. [Scandinavian Tobacco] that is moving the new business to Richmond, Virginia. Because of that move I have decided not to move with the company to Richmond."
Ozgener cited his strong roots in Nashville, Tennessee, where C.A.O. has been headquartered since its founding in 1968, as his reason to stay. "I'm pretty well established in Nashville," said Ozgener. "My family is here, my wife's family—I'm not willing to uproot my family. Nashville has been a great city for karma, for me and my family."
Dan Carr, president of General Cigar said, "We remain committed to C.A.O. and are grateful to Tim for his contributions, not only to the brand but also for sharing his knowledge with the people who will continue his legacy. While we will miss Tim's insight and passion, we respect his choice and wish him well."
Gary Hyams, chairman of C.A.O. International said, "It has been a privilege to work with Tim over the last three and a half years and to have had the opportunity to share in his passion for C.A.O. I wish him and his family all the very best for the future."
General's statement lauded Ozgener for his innovative packaging, new flavor profiles and unique marketing concepts to the C.A.O. brand, "which has continued to thrive since the company's inception." Ozgener said one of his proudest achievements was creating C.A.O. Brazilia, made with a Brazilian wrapper and packed in a green box, both unusual at the time.
Ozgener said his future plans were still undecided. He mentioned his co-ownership of a Nashville bar called The Patterson House as something he might further pursue. When asked if he was done making and selling cigars, Ozgener said, "Never say never. It's almost like asking Brett Favre if he's retired from football."
For more on this story, see the November 9 Cigar Insider, which will be published later today.