Bacardi is headquartered in San Juan, Puerto Rico and has a 16-member board of directors led by the original founder's great-great grandson, Facundo L. Bacardi. The President Bernard F. Ramirez and Co-President Charles M. Hernandez, also play a large part in production and sales.
Moving from the experimental stage to a more commercial endeavor, he and his brother José set up shop in a Santiago de Cuba distillery they bought in 1862; that distillery housed an alembic made of copper and cast iron, and was in a building in whose rafters lived fruit bats.
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 (Don Enrique) 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 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, a mummy still on display. In Santiago, his brother Facundo M. Bacardi continued to manage the company along with 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 invited US-Americans (still subject to Prohibition) to "Come to Cuba and bathe in Bacardi rum." A new product was introduced: Hatuey beer.
Bacardi's transition into an international brand was due mostly to Schueg's "business genius"; Schueg "branded Cuba as the home of rum, and Bacardi as the king of rums" and moved production overseas, first to Puerto Rico (which enabled rum to be sold tariff-free in the U.S. after Prohibition), and then to Mexico. Those changes were accompanied by a new brand name: Ron Bacardi ("Ron" is the Spanish word for rum). Several trademark disputes went to court during this time regarding uses of the Bacardi name on rum produced outside of Cuba.
During the World War II years the company was led by Schueg's son-in-law José 'Pepin' Bosch. Pepin founded Bacardi Imports in New York City, and was named Cuba's Minister of the Treasury in 1949.
The Bacardi family (and hence, the company) maintained a fierce opposition to Fidel Castro's revolution in Cuba in the 1960s. The Bacardi family and company left Cuba after it became clear that Castro was serious about his pledges for change; in particular, in nationalizing and banning all private property on the island as well as all bank accounts. However, the company had started foreign branches 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 as a well as constructing a plant in Puerto Rico after the prohibition era to save in import taxes for rum being imported to the US. This helped the company survive after the communist government nationalized all Bacardi assets in the country.
Embittered Bacardi helmsman Jose Pepin Bosch bought a surplus B-26 bomber with the hopes of bombing Cuban oil refineries (the bold plan was foiled when a picture of the bomber appeared on the front page of The New York Times). He was also allegedly involved in the CIA plot to assassinate Fidel Castro; documents uncovered during Congressional investigations into John F. Kennedy's death bring to light a message outlining how he 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, the act has been ruled illegal by the WTO (August 2001). The U.S. Congress has yet to re-examine the matter.
Bacardi drinks are not found in Cuba today. The main brand of rum in Cuba is called Havana Club, a formerly private company nationalized by the government. 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 supposedly attempting to falsely convince consumers they were purchasing rum made in Cuba rather than just marking its heritage. 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" which is the original name of the drink and how it's mostly called in Latin America. 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.
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