Bacardi wants to be in Bermuda for centuries

  • Drinking to Bermuda: Mahesh Madhavan, left, Bacardi's CEO, and John Burke, the firm's  chief marketing officer, toast the success of their

    Drinking to Bermuda: Mahesh Madhavan, left, Bacardi's CEO, and John Burke, the firm's chief marketing officer, toast the success of their "back to the bar" campaign at Docksider in Hamilton (Photograph Raymond Hainey)

Drinks giant Bacardi is on the rock for good, its chief executive has promised.

Mahesh Madhavan said that the Cuban-founded company was committed to Bermuda as its global headquarters.

Mr Madhavan added: “We have completed 157 years of the company — not only another 157 years but the next 500, I hope, will be in Bermuda.”

He was speaking as dozens of Bacardi staff on the island completed their annual “back to the bar” event, designed to coincide with the founder’s day at the family-owned firm, at Docksider in Hamilton.

Bacardi set up in Bermuda in 1965 after it was forced out of Cuba by the Communist regime set up in the wake of the 1959 revolution headed by the late Fidel Castro.

There are signs that the grip of Communism is loosening on the Caribbean island and that the US trade embargo imposed after the revolution has since been relaxed, leading to hopes that exiles may be able to return.

But Mr Madhavan said: “For us, Bermuda is home, irrespective of what happens there.

“We might go there and build a connection, but Bermuda is our home now.”

He added: “Bermuda is the place we make all our decisions. The board meets here six times a year and we have a leadership team coming here seven times a year. Bermuda is the hub for all major decisions to be made.”

Mr Madhavan said uncertainty caused by Britain’s decision to quit the European and the French social justice “yellow vests” protests, which descended into violence, had hit business in Europe towards the end of last year.

He added: “Consumers don’t know whether they should spend or save for a rainy day and that results in them going to cheaper brands.”

But he explained that downturns were “cyclical” and affected different parts of the world at different times.

Mr Madhavan said: “The year was good. We are on track with budgets ... we’re on track to deliver what we told the family and board of directors we would deliver.”

Mr Madhavan and John Burke, the chief marketing officer and president of Bacardi Global Brands, joined other staff for the tour round 12 bars in Hamilton last Thursday night in a drive designed to promote Bacardi — and get ideas from bar owners and customers on how to develop its brands.

More than 7,000 Bacardi staff in 134 cities around the world took part in the event,

Mr Burke said: “It’s fantastic to meet real people who are trying our brands and we’re able to talk to them about our brands.

“We invite our teams to go out into bars and meet people, talk to them about our products and our brands and learn more about our consumers because we’re on a mission to put the customer at the heart of what we do.”

He added: “For us, it’s market research because the people who work in bars are telling us what the customers have told them. That helps us better serve our customers.”

Mr Madhavan said: “At times, we get ideas too ... sometimes the best advice comes from our customers.

He added: “There’s definitely been a bit of a buzz. The fact we had it on radio, we had people talking about it and people were looking forward to it. It was a great way to get people out of their homes.

“It all boils down to connecting — that’s what Bacardi has always been great at. It’s a reboot. Getting people back to bars and socialising.”

The company’s portfolio includes more than 200 brands — and not just rum, but English gin, Italian vermouth, Scotch whisky, French vodka, Mexican tequila and one of its newest acquisitions — a stake in Teeling, an Irish whiskey distiller based in the heart of Dublin.

Mr Madhavan said: “People don’t realise the company has all these brands — it’s good to get out and tell them about them.”

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Published Feb 12, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 11, 2019 at 9:05 pm)

Bacardi wants to be in Bermuda for centuries

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