La Palina has announced that Sam Phillips and Clay Roberts have both joined the company, being named president and chief operating officer, respectively, as well as being made partners.
Both changes are effective immediately.
“I am excited to bring in Sam and Clay to lead our team,” said Bill Paley, La Palina’s owner, in a statement. “The company is making many changes and innovating in the super-premium cigar category. Sam and Clay will lead this evolution as their primary responsibility.”
He went on to call the additions part of his plan to put together a dream team of executives to lead La Palina into its next phase.
Both Phillips and Roberts have numerous years in the cigar industry; Phillips joined the industry in 1996 with Indian Tabac, which would become Rocky Patel Premium Cigars, and then spent four years with Alec Bradley as the vp of marketing. Phillips had been serving as a corporate consultant to La Palina since February 2015.
Roberts was most recently with Alec Bradley Cigar Co.; he entered the cigar industry with Rocky Patel Premium Cigars as well and spent time with A.J. Fernandez.
“This was an opportunity that this industry just doesn’t present, and it was a curious opportunity that I had never heard before,” said Roberts to halfwheel. “I asked Bill to make me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and he did.”
While both have been given official titles, Roberts told halfwheel that there will be a fair amount of overlap and partnering on the day-to-day operations of La Palina as they work to find the best combination of responsibilities along with Michael Massey, the company’s chief financial officer. He added that “traditional roles” in the cigar industry may not be appropriate for a company such as La Palina.
Massey is also now a partner in the business.
Phillips added that there are “absolutely and positively” plans to grow La Palina both domestically and internationally, though specifics about what that means between in-house reps and brokers is still being discussed at this point. No product line changes are in the immediate future, though Phillips added that they are looking at becoming a global brand that segments into different demographics, mentioning that they are looking at increasing the “accessibility” of the La Palina portfolio.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Michael Serota, vp of operations at Alec Bradley said that “we thank Clay for his contribution to our family and wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”
The move to make Phillips, Roberts and Massey partners should provide some stability to La Palina’s executive team. In the last 18 months the company has dismissed two national sales mangers and saw its longtime vice-president, Courtney Smith, resign.
Charlie Minato contributed to this story.