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Bacardi

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The top of the Bacardi Building in Havana, Cuba.

Bacardi is the world's largest privately held, family-owned spirits company; a producer of rums, including Bacardi Superior and Bacardi 151. The company sells in excess of 200 million bottles per year in 200 countries. The business is the fourth largest spirits company in the world: sales in 2004 were $3.3 billion USD, up from $2.7 billion USD in 2000. A number of planned stock market flotations have collapsed, the last in 2000.

Originally founded by Don Facundo Bacardí Massó in Santiago de Cuba on February 4, 1862, Bacardi is headquartered today in Hamilton, Bermuda. The Bacardi company also owns several other brands including Grey Goose vodka, Dewar's scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Eristoff vodka, Martini & Rossi vermouth, Cazadores tequila, and the U.S. version of Havana Club.

Don Facundo Bacardí Massó, a wine merchant, emigrated from Catalonia to Cuba in the early 19th century. During this period, rum was cheaply made and not considered a refined drink, one rarely sold in upscale taverns. Don Facundo began attempting to "tame" rum. After experimenting with several techniques he hit upon filtering the rum through charcoal, which removed impurities. In addition to this, Facundo aged the rum in oak barrels, which had the effect of "mellowing" the drink. The final product was the first clear, or "white" rum in the world.

Moving from the experimental stage to a more commercial endeavor, he and his brother José set up shop in a small distillery on February 4, 1862. Their first copper and cast iron still produced 35 barrels of fermented molasses per day. In the rafters of this building lived fruit bats. Hence, the Bacardi bat logo.

The 1890s were turbulent times for the company. Emilio Bacardi, eldest son of Don Facundo, was exiled from Cuba for having fought in the rebel army against Spain in the Cuban Independence War. Emilio's brothers, Facundo and José, and his brother-in-law Henri Schueg, remained in Cuba with the difficult task of sustaining the company during a period of war. The women in the family were refugees in Kingston, Jamaica. After the Cuban War of Independence, and the American occupation of Cuba, "The Original Cuba Libre" and the Daiquiri cocktail were both born with Bacardi rum. In 1899, US- General Leonard Wood appointed Emilio Bacardi Mayor of Santiago de Cuba.

In 1912, Emilio Bacardi traveled to Egypt where he purchased a mummy for the future Emilio Bacardi Moreau Municipal Museum in Santiago de Cuba (still on display). In Santiago, his brother Facundo M. Bacardi continued to manage the company along with Henri Schueg, who began the company's international expansion by opening new bottling plants in Barcelona and New York City. The New York plant was soon shut down due to Prohibition, yet during this time Cuba became a hotspot for US tourists.

In the 1920s, Emilio opened a new distillery in Santiago. During this decade, the art deco Bacardi building was built in Havana and the third generation of the Bacardi family was entering the business. Facundo Bacardi was known to have invited US-Americans (still subject to Prohibition) to "Come to Cuba and bathe in Bacardi rum." A new product was introduced: Hatuey beer.

The 1930s brought a new bottling plant in Mexico City and a new distillery in Puerto Rico under the leadership of Ron Bacardi. (Which is the name of the rum, not a person). Several trademark disputes went to court during this time regarding use of the Bacardi name on rum produced outside of Cuba. The company's leadership then fell to Henri Schueg, who managed to keep the family name on the bottles coming from Puerto Rico. Another case was won by Bacardi which allowed that "a Bacardi Cocktail is only a Bacardi Cocktail when made with Bacardi rum."

During the World War II years the company was led by Henri's son-in-law Jose Pepin Bosch. Pepin founded Bacardi Imports in New York City, and was named Cuba's Minister of the Treasury in 1949.

Ernest Hemingway mentions Hatuey beer in two of his works: To Have and Have Not and The Old Man and the Sea. In 1956, Bacardi held a festival in honor of Hemingway's winning the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Bacardi has made several acquisitions to diversify away from the eponymous Bacardi rum brand. In 1992 Bacardi acquired Martini & Rossi S.p.A. the famous Italian producer of Martini vermouth and sparkling wines. In 1998, the company acquired Dewar's scotch and Bombay gin for $2 billion. In 2001, the Cazadores tequila brand and in 2004 Grey Goose, a French made vodka, from Sidney Frank for $2 billion. In 2006, Bacardi purchased New Zealand vodka brand 42 Below. Other associated brands include Drambuie Scotch whisky liqueur, DiSaronno Amaretto, and B&B and Benedictine liqueurs.

The Bacardi family (and hence, the company) maintained a fierce opposition to Fidel Castro's revolution in Cuba in the 1960s. In his book, 'Bacardi, The Hidden War', Hernando Calvo Ospina outlines the political element to the family's money. Ospina describes how the Bacardi family and company left Cuba after it became clear that Castro was serious about his pledges for change. However, the exit had started a few years prior to the revolution; the company moved the all important Bacardi international trademarks out of the country (to the Bahamas) prior to the revolution. The revolutionary government nationalised all Bacardi assets in the country, and like many American businesses, Bacardi declined the settlement offered.

Ospina outlines the close ties Bacardi family members had to the US political elite, as well as organizations of state such as the CIA. The Bacardi family's funding of Cuban exile organizations based in Miami like the CANF is also discussed.

Documents uncovered during congressional investigations into Kennedy's death bring to light a message outlining how Bacardi family member Jose Pepin Bosch had plans to assassinate Castro, his brother (Raúl Castro) and Che Guevara. The RECE (Cuban Representation in Exile) also receives funding from Bacardi family members.

More recently, Bacardi lawyers were influential in the drafting of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act which sought to extend the scope of the United States embargo against Cuba. In 1999 Otto Reich, a lobbyist in Washington on behalf of Bacardi Rum, drafted section 211 of the 1999 Omnibus appropriations act, a bill that became known as the Bacardi Act. Section 211 denied trademark protection to Cuban businesses products expropriated after the Cuban revolution, a provision keenly sought by the Bacardi family. The act was aimed primarily at Havana Club brand in America, which had been registered by the Cuban government. Section 211 has been challenged un-successfully by the Cuban government and the European Union in US courts, however, has been ruled illegal by the WTO (August 2001). The American Congress has yet to re-examine the matter. Bacardi's political activities have lead to the creation of a 'Boycott Bacardi' campaign in the UK, which has been unsuccessful.

Bacardi drinks are not found in Cuba today. The main brand of rum in Cuba is called Havana Club. Havana Club was not a Bacardi brand, though Bacardi later bought the brand from the original owners, the Arechabala family, who had it seized from them by Castro's government after the revolution without compensation.  In partnership with French company Pernod-Ricard, Havana Club is sold all over the world, except for the United States and its territories.

Bacardi, despite having no business tie (in terms of production) to Cuba today, have decided to re-emphasize their Cuban heritage in recent years. This is mainly due to commercial reasons; facing increased competition in the Rum market from the now international brand Havana Club, the company concluded that it was important for sales to associate their rum with Cuba. TV adverts with slogans of 'Welcome to the Latin Quarter' are but one example of this. In 1998, under the distinctive bat logo, the phrase "company founded in Santiago de Cuba in 1862" was added.

Bacardi has faced criticism and legal problems for attempting to falsely convince consumers they were purchasing rum made in Cuba. Bacardi adverts in Spain, since 1966, had described a popular combination of rum and coke as "rum and coke". However, after 1998, it began to describe the drink as Cuba Libre - literally translated as "free Cuba". In this instance, Bacardi faced a legal ruling from the Spanish Association of Advertising Users which forced the company to stop the advert. They concluded that it could "mislead the viewer as to the true nature of the product" as the advert contained so many pieces of Caribbean imagery, one might conclude it came from Cuba (Ospina, p79). Bacardi continues to fight a war in the courts with the Cuban government of the rights to trademarks around the world.

The Bacardi legacy lives on in Santiago and Havana through their grand buildings and historic significance. The Bacardi Building (Edificio Bacardi) in Old Havana is regarded as one of the finest art deco buildings in Latin America.