jaimemontilla.com

Central Francisco

After Manuel Rionda started at Czarnikow, McDougal & Co. in 1897, he recruited his brother Francisco to be the company's representative in Cuba.  Francisco, then living in New York returned with his family to Cuba to tend to his new responsibilities.  In May 1898, Francisco acquired 50,000 acres of wilderness on the south coast near Guayabal approximately 200 east of Tiunucú from Salvador Cisneros Betancourt .  When he died on November 18, 1898 an offer for a 25% share of the land made to Czarnikow, McDougal & Co. was under consideration but had not been accepted.

While Tiunucú was being rebuilt, Manuel visited the wilderness his brother had acquired shortly before his death and decided to build a sugar mill there.  This was a very ambitious project which required substantial capital to lure enough supply of workers, build railroad lines from the fields to the factory and build all the required infrastructure from docks to telephone lines to living quarters.  The project was aided by Henry O. Havemeyer's unrelated $800,000 investment to acquire the Lugareño estate and his subsequent acquisition of the San Martin estate which opened the eyes and interest of other US  sugar refiners.

The Francisco Sugar Co. was incorporated in New Jersey on March 1, 1899 but it was not until June 1900 that Manuel finally succeeded in selling a majority block of shares to the McCahan Sugar Refinery that the project took off the ground with William J. McCahan as president.  To develop the colono system that had so well worked in western Cuba, then twenty-two year old Higinio Fanjul Rionda was put in charge of building and managing a colonia system and to run the company store.

Francisco finally started producing in 1904 when it produced some 69,000 bags of raw sugar and showed a profit of $60,000.  After 1904 its production stalled to a point that prompted Manuel to offer it for sale to James H. Post, the Cuban-American Sugar Co. and others in 1908 with no luck.  On June 1909, John Durham, the McCahan appointed general Manager, was replaced with 29 years-old Leandro Rionda de la Torriente.  Leandro did an excellent job in managing Central Francisco which in 1913 produced 257,140 bags of sugar that made it the 9th top producer on the island that year.

In 1915 Francisco paid a stock dividend of 233%, in 1916, 1918 and 1919 it paid 20% cash dividend and 30% in 1920.  Even in 1917 when the civil unrest due to the results of the 1916 election had threatened its mere existence, a cash dividend of 10% was paid.