Joaquin E. Bacardi III, MBA '98

Rum CEO attributes success to family culture

Joaquin E. Bacardi III, president and CEO of Bacardi Corporation, has long had a knack for business. As a teenager, he launched and operated a successful distribution service called JB Marketing from his parents’ garage in Puerto Rico.

“I had this idea to bring merchandise from the mainland United States—products you would see on infomercials—and distribute them throughout the island,” he recalls. “I learned a lot about commitments, plus I enjoyed generating my own spending money for traveling and my motorcycle hobby.” JB Marketing was no lemonade stand: it grossed $300,000 during its first year alone.

To hone his skills, Bacardi earned a bachelor’s degree in business and communications in 1989 at Bentley College. In 1998, he received an MBA with a concentration in strategic management from Sloan. “Since attending MIT, I approach business with more analytical depth,” he says. Natural talents aside, he says his education prepared him for the responsibilities of running the multinational company headquartered in Puerto Rico.

But above all, Bacardi attributes his success to strong family bonds. He says that one of the spirits company’s biggest competitive advantages is its family culture, which unites the seven generations who have operated the company since its founding in 1862. “It promotes a sense of belonging that translates into accountability and a feeling of ownership throughout the organization,” says Bacardi. The privately held company is now the world’s largest rum producer and owns 200 brands, including Grey Goose vodka, Bombay Sapphire gin, and Dewar’s whiskey.

Part of that family culture involves planning well for the future,  as reflected in the company’s resolve to reduce its carbon footprint. Methane gas from the rum production process is captured and fed into boilers to help power the San Juan distillery, which produces 83 percent of Bacardi’s rum. Water used to cool fresh rum coming off the hot distillery column is treated and reused, saving 22,000 gallons of water per day. And in 2010, he unveiled wind turbines that generate 80 percent of the electricity used to run the popular Casa Bacardi tourist center near San Juan.

Bacardi, who lives in Guaynabo, enjoys fishing and water-skiing with his wife, Sonia, and their three children, Eduardo, Guillermo, and Carolina. He serves on Sloan’s Latin American Executive Board, and in 2010 Bentley College inducted him into its Distinguished Alumni Academy. He also mentors youths through the Young Presidents Organization, an international organization that encourages young business leaders. “Joining the board and working with young adults has been a great way to give back and educate others in business,” he says.

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