February 4, 2013 17:29 Age: 1 yrs

A Family Matter

Bacardi 96L Learns More Than the Rum Business From His Ancestors


When he thinks about it, Facundo Bacardi 96l can trace to his childhood the lessons he learned about caring for the community.

“I really think that is where you capture a lifelong interest in helping others, by teaching children early,” says Bacardi, chair of Bacardi Limited, which was founded by his great-great grandfather, Facundo Bacardí Massó, in Cuba in 1862.

The third-largest distilled spirits company in the world, Bacardi Limited owns and distributes brands including Bacardi rum, Grey Goose vodka, Dewar’s scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin and Martini & Rossi vermouth.

“My father taught my brother, sister and me at an early age that if you are successful at what you do and your family is fortunate, it feels good to share that with others,” he says.

At Emory Law, Bacardi found a culture and atmosphere that were an ideal fit for the philosophy of community service and philanthropy that has been a strong current in his family from its earliest ancestry.

By his final year at Emory Law, he wanted to make a gift that would help current and future law students share the positive experiences he had. Bacardi admits that — as the head of a family business built on rum — Emory’s connection to Coca-Cola through the Woodruff Foundation appealed to him.

“After they renamed Goizueta Business School, I had a running joke with Dean Woody Hunter, who would say to me, ‘See that school over there? We need a splash of rum to go with the Coca-Cola,’” Bacardi says.

In his third year of law school, Bacardi gave $200,00 to name Bacardi Plaza, which serves as a meeting place for students to study and relax and a venue for law school social events. His initial gift also helped with the construction of the Hugh F. MacMillan Law Library.

Recently, Bacardi pledged $1.5 million to Emory Law for scholarships and the dean’s discretionary fund in honor of his two favorite professors: Nathaniel Gozansky and the late David Bederman. In 2010, he provided a $150,000 lead gift to endow a scholarship in honor of Gozansky.

“You take a little bit away from everyone you meet. There were a lot of professors who I learned so much from,” he says. “Dean Gozansky and Professor Bederman were great, and there were many other outstanding professors — Andrew Cole, Gary Smith — who I learned so much from. I know I am not finished recognizing that.”

His recent gifts to scholarships fulfilled his desire to help students who want the quality and experience of an Emory Law education but are unable to attend without financial aid.

“I am fortunate that I was able to come to Emory Law and not have the concern of how to pay for it. I wanted to create scholarships for the school so outstanding students could come in and not worry about how to pay,” he says.

Upholding family tradition

This dedication to philanthropy is a cherished part of his family’s history. In 1852, family patriarch Facundo Bacardí Massó helped organize food relief for the citizens of Santiago de Cuba after devastating earthquakes. In 1879, Bacardí Massó’s eldest son, Emilio Bacardi, became a city councilor and a school board member. In 1898, he was appointed as mayor and greatly improved the city’s infrastructure and sanitation. The Bacardi family also established clinics, orphanages, homes for the elderly and libraries during that time.

Bacardi believes it is his family’s responsibility to continue this tradition of philanthropy. In 2005, he founded the Facundo and Amalia Bacardi Foundation — named for his great-great grandparents. The foundation’s mission is to provide for the general well-being of south Floridians by supporting educational, health, food and housing and environmental programs.

“Our family is large and has many divergent interests, but we are all here because of the efforts of two people — Facundo and Amalia,” Bacardi says. “I filed the paperwork to start this foundation on August 5 because that is the anniversary of their wedding and that is what this really is about. We are taking what others have built up and in return sharing it to both reflect for us what they have done and to spread the good works of our ancestry.”

It was a similar desire to honor those who have made an impact on his life that led Bacardi to make gifts to Emory Law. He says he owes his path to law school to the influence of a business mentor and close friend.

Discovering the law

After graduating with a degree in finance in 1989, Bacardi worked at his family’s company until enrolling in the MBA program at the University of Florida in 1991. Just three days before classes were to begin, Bacardi’s father, Luis, died of heart failure.

“I toughed it out for about a month, but I just couldn’t be there,” Bacardi says. “I joined our acquisitions team, and I spent the next year traveling and helping put deals together.”

During that time, the company’s external counsel, George “Chip” Reid — who went on to become president and CEO of Bacardi International in 1996 — advised the young businessman that law school would be a far better choice than an MBA.

“Chip had a Yale undergrad degree, a degree from Harvard Law and a Harvard MBA. He said to me ‘I don’t want you to get an MBA. I have them both, and you are getting a far better education with a law degree,’” Bacardi recalls.

When he protested that he wasn’t sure about the idea, Reid told him, “‘How about this? For the next year, you look at what we’re doing here and, at the very end, you are going to law school.’”

Although he had never considered a law degree, Bacardi agreed to finish the year before making a decision.

“About halfway through that year, I realized law school was a good idea,” he says, adding that the legal complexities of business acquisitions and contractual issues and a constantly changing legal landscape helped him realize how a law degree would give him a better grasp of business.

“Many business decisions are based upon what you can and can’t do under the law. When you get involved in many careers, you do a lot of planning and you work hard to get a handle on what other people are doing in respect to your business,” he says.

“A lot of it is about relationships — for me that is marketing and sales people, distributors, retail partners — and my background in law has educated me in a way that has helped me pick up the missing pieces and think of things in a different way. That has been a tremendous experience for me.”

Maria M. Lameiras is a senior editor for Emory University’s Development Communications.

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