The Sugar King of Havana: The Rise and Fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba's Last Tycoon

By John Paul Rathbone

The son of a Cuban exile recounts the amazing and contradictory lifetime of famed sugar baron Julio Lobo, the richest guy in prerevolutionary Cuba and the final of the island's haute bourgeoisie.

Fifty years after the Cuban revolution, the mythical wealth of the sugar multi-millionaire Julio Lobo continues to be emblematic of a definite lifestyle that got here to an abrupt finish whilst Fidel Castro marched into Havana. recognized in his day because the King of Sugar, Lobo was once for many years the main robust strength on the planet sugar industry, controlling substantial swathes of the island's sugar pursuits. Born in 1898, the 12 months of Cuba's independence, Lobo's amazing existence mirrors, in nearly lurid technicolor, the numerous rises and ultimate fall of the stricken Cuban republic.

the main points of Lobo's existence are healthy for Hollywood. He two times cornered the overseas sugar marketplace and had the most important selection of Napoleonica open air of France, together with the emperor's again tooth and loss of life masks. He as soon as confronted a firing squad in simple terms to be pardoned on the final second, and later survived a gangland taking pictures. He courted motion picture stars from Bette Davis to Joan Fontaine and stuffed the swimming pool at his sprawling property with body spray while Esther Williams came around.

As Rathbone observes, such are the legends of which revolutions are made, and later justified. yet Lobo used to be additionally a innovative and a philanthropist, and his genius used to be so largely stated that Che Guevara in my opinion provided him the placement of minister of sugar within the Communist regime. whilst Lobo declined-knowing that their worldviews may possibly by no means be compatible-his houses have been nationalized, such a lot of his fortune vanished in a single day, and he left the island, by no means to come back to his loved Cuba.

Financial Times journalist John Paul Rathbone has been thinking about this intoxicating, whirligig, and contradictory prerevolutionary interval his whole existence. His mom was once additionally a member of Havana's storied haute bourgeoisie and a chum of Lobo's daughters. Woven into Lobo's story is her family's event of republic, revolution, and exile, in addition to the author's personal fight to return to grips with Cuba's, and his family's, turbulent historical past.

Prodigiously researched and imaginatively written, The Sugar King of Havana is an enthralling portrait of the glittering finish of an period, but additionally of a extra hopeful Cuban prior, person who could even supply a window into the island's destiny.

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The next 12 months, it filed a proxy observe to shareholders announcing that the consortium desired to take over the company. the purpose used to be to restructure the corporate and unlock its funds. at the present time the movement will be famous as a vintage antagonistic takeover. Then it used to be an unheard of piece of company buccaneering. What made all of it the extra awesome is that Lobo orchestrated the operation from a sanatorium in North the US whereas he may nonetheless slightly stand. Fragments of lead remained embedded in his physique, by means of his correct knee and in his head, and he suffered fierce, crushing complications. The takeover try out was once finally unsuccessful. After a basic assembly that dragged on for 2 weeks, till then the longest in U. S. company heritage, the Galbán Lobo place of work basically won keep watch over of forty five percentage of Cuba corporation, and later bought this stake. nonetheless, the raid finally ended in keep watch over of the company being transferred to Havana, with a Cuban board appointed in 1948. The incident exhibits back how convinced Cuban financiers felt once they took on their North American friends. In finance, if no longer in politics, Cuba was once much less a neocolonial satrapy of the U.S., as so usually depicted, than just the Latin American economic system so much heavily built-in with the mainland. one other irony is that whilst the tried takeover of Cuba corporation was once happening, a tender Fidel Castro had damaged onto the nationwide political level with a speech on the college of Havana within which he first talked of principles that will later turn into favourite subject matters. Castro talked about the nationalist revolution that Grau had promised Cuba. however it was once a “betrayed revolution,” Castro acknowledged, that had left “the country’s wealth in international fingers. ” Lobo, against this, used to be doing whatever approximately such Yankee imperialism, albeit in ways in which Castro and different hotheaded scholars would possibly not provide due weight or comprehend. “Some humans have made the rustic nice with the sword, others with the pen. i've got performed so by means of developing wealth,” as Lobo loved to claim. but through the tip of 1947, even the joys of a large company dustup had light for Lobo. He wrote from manhattan to his mom in Havana the subsequent spring that paintings left him with a flat flavor in his mouth. It “used to be a resource of diversion and delight for me, and that i used to be commencing to think enthusiastic back approximately clean initiatives; now not. ” He additional that he felt like an uprooted tree “which can’t be transplanted with out worry of harmful its roots. ” He stated that he couldn't make plans, was once not sure what to do, that he had to imagine issues via. Lobo had continuously loved to shuttle, be that round Cuba on vacations along with his daughters or on work trips round South the USA, Europe, and the USA, and he relished the journey, traveling new international locations with a curious eye. in the course of one journey to Haiti in 1941, he spotted over lunch with President Élie Lescot that each one the cutlery round the desk have been taken “from a number of resorts in manhattan just like the Astor, the Waldorf and others. ” but now, quite often so alive to the weird and the picturesque, Lobo wrote that he was once “tired of lodge lifestyles, of dwelling out of a suitcase, of no longer having a house or kinfolk round me.

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