George Gershel, who spent nearly 50 years working in the cigar industry, died on September 20 in Rougemont, Switzerland. He was 89 years old.
Gershel was a fourth-generation tobacco man. Born in Hartford, he graduated from Cornell University, and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. In 1961 he started working for Consolidated Cigar Corp. (today known as Altadis U.S.A.) as an assistant tobacco buyer, and spent 47 years with the company, where he was promoted several times.
In 1988, he became one of the company’s owners when he joined a group of executives in taking an equity stake in a $138 million leveraged buyout of Consolidated from financier Ronald O. Perelman. In 1993, the group sold the company back to Perelman for $188 million.
When he retired from Altadis USA in 2008, Gershel was executive vice president of tobacco. His role at the company was considerably important—he was responsible for buying the tobacco leaf required to make cigars for one of the world’s largest cigar companies, which made tens of millions of cigars annually by hand, and billions by machine.
Gershel is survived by his wife, Yolanda, two daughters, a son and many grandchildren.