Manuel Jorge Cutillas

3/1/1932 – 11/4/2013

An ardent advocate of freedom in Cuba, Manuel Jorge Cutillas became chairman of the Center for a Free Cuba in 1997 and served 16 years until his death. He was the great-great-grandson of Don Facundo Bacardí, who established the rum distillery that bears the family name.

Mr. Cutillas was born and grew up in Santiago, Cuba. He traveled to the United States to study at Tufts University, in Boston, Mass., and earned a bachelor of science degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. He returned to Santiago in 1955 to work as an assistant distillery superintendent in the family business and married Rosa María Dubois.

Like many Cubans, Mr. Cutillas had hoped the 1959 Castro Revolution would bring peace and prosperity to island, following the despotic dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. It quickly became apparent that it would not. On Oct.14, 1960, Mr. Cutillas awoke in Santiago to news that the Castro government, without paying compensation, had confiscated the Bacardí family’s assets. Mr. Cutillas journeyed to Havana to seeking permission to leave the country. The government responded by seizing his passport. So, he did what others were doing: boarded a boat and left anyway. After six days of rough seas, he arrived in Miami.

Eventually he and his family settled in The Bahamas where Bacardí & Company Ltd. established its headquarters. He spent 45 years with the company.

As Chief Executive Officer and Board chairman he led the company’s international expansion, consolidated operations and acquired Martini& Rossi That acquisition doubled the size of the company and allowed Barcardí to diversify its product-line to include vermouths, wines, cognac, Scotch whisky and liqueurs.  Bacardí is now the world’s largest privately-held spirits companies. In 1996, the London-based Financial World magazine listed “BACARDÍ Rum” trademark as one of the world’s ten most valuable. Mr. Cutillas was awarded the coveted title of Maestro de Ron (Rum Master), a title only awarded to a handful of family members over the company’s more-than-150-year history. In 2012 he collaborated with eight other family Maestros de Ron to create a rare BACARDÍ blend for Bacardí’s 150th anniversary.

A philanthropist and humanitarian, Mr. Cutillas served as President and Chairman of the Lyford Cay Foundation, an organization that provides college scholarships to Bahamian students.

Renowned for his can-do and optimistic disposition, Mr. Cutillas was personally committed to “excellence and the entrepreneurial spirit.”  An innate consensus builder, he continues to be an inspiration at the Center for a Free Cuba.