Bacardi Limited (English: /bəˈkɑrdi/; Catalan: [bəkəɾˈði]; Spanish: [bakarˈði]) is the largest privately held, family-owned spirits company in the world. Originally known for its eponymous Bacardi white rum, it's now also known for its brand portfolio comprising more than 200 brands and labels. Founded on 4 February 1862, and family-owned for the past seven generations, Bacardi now employs 6,000 people, manufactures its brands at 27 facilities in 16 markets on four continents, with sales in more than 150 countries. Bacardi Limited refers to the Bacardi group of companies, including Bacardi International Limited. The company sells in excess of 200 million bottles per year in nearly 100 countries. The company's sales in 2007 were US$5.5 billion, up from $4.9 billion in 2006.

Bacardi Limited is headquartered in Hamilton, Bermuda and has a 16-member board of directors led by the original founder's great-great grandson, Facundo L. Bacardí.

Early history

Facundo Bacardí Massó, a Catalan wine merchant, was born in Sitges, Catalonia, (Spain) in 1814, and emigrated to Cuba in 1830. 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 by isolating a proprietary strain of yeast still used in Bacardi production today. This yeast gives Bacardi rum its unique flavor profile. 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 white 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 Santiago de Cuba distillery they bought in 1862; that distillery housed a still made of copper and cast iron. In the rafters of this building lived fruit bats – the inspiration for the Bacardi bat logo.

The 1880s and 90s were turbulent times for Cuba and the company. Emilio Bacardí, Don Facundo's eldest son, was repeatedly imprisoned and was exiled from Cuba for having fought in the rebel army against Spain in the Cuban War of Independence.

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 exiled in Kingston, Jamaica. After the Cuban War of Independence and the US occupation of Cuba, "The Original Cuba Libre" and the Daiquiri were both born with Bacardi rum. In 1899 US General Leonard Wood appointed Emilio Bacardí Mayor of Santiago de Cuba.

In 1912 Emilio Bacardí travelled to Egypt where he purchased a mummy (still on display) for the future Emilio Bacardí Moreau Municipal Museum in Santiago de Cuba. In Santiago, his brother Facundo M. Bacardí continued to manage the company along with Schueg, who began the company's international expansion by opening new bottling plants in Barcelona (1910) and New York City (1915). The New York plant was soon shut down due to Prohibition, yet during this time Cuba became a hotspot for US tourists.
Main article: Bacardi Building (Havana)

In 1922 Emilio opened a new distillery in Santiago. In 1930 Schueg opened the art deco Bacardi building in Havana and the third generation of the Bacardí family was entering the business. Facundito Bacardí 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.

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 expanded overseas, first to Mexico (1931), then to Puerto Rico (1936), under the brand name Ron Bacardi. (Ron is the Spanish word for rum). Post-Prohibition production in Puerto Rico enabled rum to be sold tariff-free in the US after Prohibition. He then expanded to the United States (1944).

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.

Cuban Revolution

Portuondo and other Bacardí family members initially supported the Cuban revolutionaries, including Fidel Castro and the broader M-26-7 movement: Bosch personally donated tens of thousands of dollars to the movement, and acted as an intermediary between the revolutionaries and the CIA to assuage the latter's concerns. Family members, employees, and facilities were put to use by the movement and the company supported the revolution publicly with advertisements and parties. But their support turned to opposition as the pro-Soviet Che Guevara wing[citation needed] of the movement began to dominate and as Castro turned against their interests.

The Bacardí 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 (ISBN 978-0745318738), Hernando Calvo Ospina outlines the political element to the family's money. Ospina describes how the Bacardi family and Company left Cuba after the Castro regime confiscated the Company’s Cuban assets on 15 October 1960; in particular, in nationalizing and banning all private property on the island as well as all bank accounts. However, due to concerns over the previous Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista the company had started foreign branches a few years prior to the revolution; the Company moved the ownership of the Company's trademarks, assets and proprietary formulas out of the country to the Bahamas prior to the revolution as well as constructing plants in Puerto Rico and Mexico 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 confiscated without compensation all Bacardi assets in the country.

Ospina also explains the close ties Bacardí family members had to the US political elite as well as organizations of state such as the CIA. The family funded various Cuban exile organizations such as CANF.

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, drafted section 211 of the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Appropriations Act, FY1999 (Pub.L. 105–277), 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 Bacardi. The act was aimed primarily at the Havana Club brand in the US. The brand was created by the José Arechabala company and confiscated without compensation in the Cuban revolution. The Havana Club trademark had been registered by the Cuban government in the United States without permission of the rightful owners. The new law invalidated the trademark registration. Section 211 has been challenged unsuccessfully by the Cuban government and the European Union in US courts; however, the act has been ruled illegal by the WTO (August 2001). The US Congress has yet to re-examine the matter.

Bacardi and Cuba today

Bacardi drinks are not found in Cuba today. The main brand of rum in Cuba is Havana Club, the company that was confiscated and nationalized by the government during the revolution. Bacardi later bought the brand from the original owners, the Arechabala family. The Cuban government, in partnership with French company Pernod Ricard, sells its Havana Club products internationally, except for the United States and its territories. Bacardi created Havana Club rum based on the original recipe from the Arechabala family, manufactures it in Puerto Rico, and sells it in Florida. Bacardi continues to fight a war in the courts attempting to legalize their own Havana Club trademark outside of the United States. Drinks now made in the former Cuban Bacardi distillery are sold in Cuba under the name Caney.

Despite having no production facilities in Cuba today, Bacardi in the UK has recently decided to re-emphasize its Cuban heritage, primarily for 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 its rum with Cuba. TV advertisements 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.[clarification needed]

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


Bacardi Limited has made several acquisitions to diversify away from the eponymous Bacardi rum brand. In 1993 Bacardi merged with Martini & Rossi S.p.A., the Italian producer of Martini vermouth and sparkling wines, creating the Bacardi-Martini group. In 1998 the company acquired Dewar's scotch, including Royal Brackla and Bombay Sapphire gin from Diageo for $2 billion. Bacardi acquired the Cazadores blue agave tequila brand in 2002 and in 2004 purchased Grey Goose, a French made vodka, from Sidney Frank for $2 billion. In 2006 Bacardi Limited purchased New Zealand vodka brand 42 Below. Other associated brands include the US version of Havana Club, Drambuie Scotch whisky liqueur, DiSaronno Amaretto, Eristoff vodka, B&B and Bénédictine liqueurs.

Bacardi is one of only two liquor brands to feature the Mexican free-tailed bat as its icon or logo, the other brand being Freetail Brewing company, out of San Antonio, TX.


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