(The author is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed
are her own.)
By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
NEW YORK, March 28 Facundo L. Bacardi had little
interest in joining the family business, which happens to be the
largest privately held spirits company in the world, with a
portfolio of more than 200 brands, including Bombay Sapphire,
Grey Goose and Dewar’s.
The great-great grandson of Bacardi company founder Don
Facundo Bacardí Massó had other plans.
“When I was young, I wanted to be a lawyer,” he said. “When
I got to my teens, I started thinking, “Boy, I'd really love to
be a baseball player.”
As Bacardi got older, his family legacy began calling him.
Now 50, he has been chairman of the board of Bermuda-based
Bacardi Limited since 2005 and a director since 1993. He spoke
with Reuters to share some of the life lessons he has learned
from his family - and the family business - over the years.
Q: What did growing up watching the family business teach
you about finances?
A: In 1960, the entire family left Cuba because all of their
assets were appropriated by the Cuban government. The family had
to come together and rebuild the company. The lessons I learned
were of being very frugal and careful with your finances - that
you could lose everything you had at any time, that anything you
have could be taken away. We were so frugal, in fact, that we
were pretty much a single-brand company from 1862 until 1992
(when Bacardi acquired General Beverage, which owns the Martini
& Rossi group).
Q: What changed to make you want to be a part of your family
A: It wasn't really something I thought about until my
grandfather passed away (when Facundo Bacardi was 16). I felt
that I really needed to step up. I wanted to make sure that my
family was well-represented, and I wanted to continue growing
the business so future generations could enjoy it. I have four
daughters - hopefully they'll have children, and we'll all
continue to grow the business.
Q: What did your first jobs teach you?
A: I pumped gas at a gas station - I was 14. Then I was a
dishwasher at a restaurant - I was 15. Then I became a busboy at
some rundown restaurant. All three of them embedded in me
something that I still remember to this day: You've got to work
hard. And that people who get ahead in life, it isn’t just
because they're smart - it's also because of opportunities. I
worked with good friends, some had good opportunities while
others really didn't have opportunities, and their paths
diverged. I saw how quickly somebody can go from having
something to having nothing.
Q: What money lessons are you passing down to your own four
daughters (ages 5 to 15)?
A: It's really about saving - we opened a savings account
for my oldest (when she was 13) a couple of years ago. I try to
tell them if you earn X dollars, this is what the difference is
between gross and net, that if you save well and invest well,
you'll be able to have a more comfortable life than if you're
spending everything and living paycheck to paycheck.
Q: How important to you is giving?
A: When you're fortunate, you should give back - everyone
should think about how to make the earth a better place as they
spend time on it. The Bacardi family has a long history in Cuba
and South Florida and wherever our companies are located, we try
to give back.
For me, there are a few different areas I try to focus on:
education, arts, the environment, and I also like historic
renovations. In Cuba, once it’s completely open, I’d like to
help renovate some of the existing older buildings.
(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Dan Grebler)