European cigar giant Villiger Söhne AG announced that CEO Heinrich Villiger has stepped down after leading the company for the past 65 years. Robert Suter, 57, will take over as CEO while Villiger will remain chairman of Villiger Söhne AG and Villiger Holding, effective immediately.
“Suter has a long and exceptional career as top executive in industrial groups,” said Villiger in a press release. Suter was formally group CEO and chairman of Swiss holding company Conzzeta Ltd.
Villiger was founded in 1888 by Heinrich Villiger’s grandfather. However, it was Villiger who established a joint venture that would allow the company to import Cuban cigars into Germany, Poland, Austria and Switzerland.
The company is best known for its machine-made cigars, of which it sells about 1.5 billion annually. Villiger did not produce premium cigars until 2008 when the company began making hand-made Dominican cigars and distributed them under its U.S. and premium cigar subsidiary, Villiger Cigars North America (VCNA).
Heinrich Villiger’s decision to step down comes only months after VCNA underwent restructuring, which included a relocation of its headquarters from North Carolina to Miami and the appointing of Rene Castaneda as new president.
This article first appeared in the March 8, 2016 issue of Cigar Insider.