Bacardi Limited is the largest privately held, family-owned spirits company in the world. Headquartered in Hamilton, Bermuda, sells in excess of 200 million bottles of liquor each year. Its brands include Bacardi Rum, Dewar’s Scotch, Grey Goose Vodka and Bombay Sapphire Gin. In 2007, the company’s sales were US $5.5 billion. Bacardi, founded in Cuba in 1862, has long portrayed itself as a victim of the Cuban revolution and has been a leading supporter and financial backer of anti-Castro causes and movements. However, its recent history seems to be one of repeated anticompetitive and anti-worker behaviour, of efforts to gain unfair advantage over others.
- Rip-off? – In 2006, Bacardi blatantly, according to published reports, “ripped-off” the work of an organization known as the Cacophony Society in San Francisco for its national advertising campaign. Bacardi’s ad directly copied the society’s tradition of dressing as salmon and running “upstream” in an annual San Francisco road race. Apparently Bacardi didn’t care that the idea was not theirs, they adopted it in its entirety.
- Preserving Tax Breaks for Itself – In 2010, Bacardi sought to engage Congress in its battle to prevent Diageo, the maker of Captain Morgan rum, from developing a rum distillery in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Bacardi, which has long been the beneficiary of tax-breaks granted to companies in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, sought to have legislation passed that would prohibit Diageo from benefitting from the very same subsidies that have helped make grow the Bacardi family fortune. The story is here.
- Gaining Unfair Advantage? – In 2005 it was reported that Bacardi had contributed more than $40,000 to political action committees headed by former U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX) who was then facing trial in Texas for conspiracy to violate election law. Not coincidentally, DeLay had sought to help Bacardi by having language inserted into must-pass legislation that would have assured Bacardi victory in a long-running trademark dispute with yet another competitor… another example of Bacardi seeking to use its size and political influence to gain unfair advantage over the competition. Details here.
- Illegal Contributions? – In 2004, Bacardi was indicted by a Texas Grand Jury for making an allegedly illegal $20,000 payment to DeLay in exchange for his actions on behalf of Bacardi in a long-running trade dispute. Here is a summary.
- Using Congress to Protect Market Power – In 1998, Bacardi successfully persuaded the Congress to pass the infamous “Section 211” of the Omnibus Appropriations Act. This provision awarded to Bacardi the exclusive use of the trademark “Havana Club” in the United States. Bacardi argued that the provision was necessary to protect the intellectual property of the company, property that it argued had been wrongly appropriated by its competitor Pernod Ricard in a joint venture with the government of Cuba. Details here. Yet today, Bacardi is itself seemingly adopting the trademark of another – “Untamed” – through its use of “Bacardi Untameable” and its apparent use of the imagery and story of The Irish Wild Geese.
- Worker Unsafety – In 2013, Bacardi Ltd. was fined $192,000 by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after the death of an untrained temporary worker who died on his first day on the job. OSHA cited Bacardi for 14 violations of U.S. worker safety laws. More here.
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