Edgar M Cullman, Source: Culbro.com

Edgar M Cullman, former chairman, chief executive, and president of the General Cigar Company passed away at his home in Stamford Connecticut on Sunday August 28th.  He was 93 years old.

While we talk a lot about cigar industries being family-owned small business operations, Cullman came from a different angle.   He was one of the rarer “captains of industry” that existed in the cigar world.   However, make no bones about it – Cullman’s roots come from a family that has been long connected with the business. 

Cullman’s great-grandfather Ferdinand Kullman was originally a tobacco and wine merchant from Germany who came to the United States in the 1840s.  Ferdinand’s sons, Joseph and Jacob, owned and founded Cullman Brothers, a tobacco brokerage house. . Edgar’s father, Joseph Cullman Jr. was a grower as well as a tobacco importer.   He owned large lots of lands in the cigar tobacco wrapper rich Connecticut River Valley.  Joseph Jr. also eventually acquired cigarette company Benson & Hedges and would eventually sell it to Philip Morris.  Cullman’s brother, Joseph Cullman III also served as chairman of Philip Morris.

Cullman, whose roots were clearly grounded in the tobacco industry would work with a group of investors and acquire General Cigars.   In 1962 he was elected president and CEO of General Cigars.  For the next two decades, Cullman built General into one of the largest cigar companies in the industry.  Under his leadership, General Cigars acquired Punch, Hoyo de Monterrey, and Partagas.  Cullman is also responsible for the launching of the Macanudo brand – a brand that became on of the biggest in the industry.  He also diversified the companies portfolio getting into non-tobacco products such as real estate, Bachman snack foods, Ex-Lax, and more.  As part of the expanded portfolio, the company became known as Culbro.

Cullman would remain president until 1981.  He remain and chairman and chief Executive eventually giving up the Chairman duties when Culbro sold its cigar holdings to Swedish Match.

A lot of people credit Cullman for expanding the appeal of cigars into the mainstream – including introducing cigars to a young adult audience.  From talking to people who met Cullman, there was no doubt that he was passionate about the cigar industry.