Cigar Rights of America has announced a variety of new leadership roles.

Gary Pesh—owner of Old Virginia Tobacco Co., a retailer—has been elected as chairman of the board. Karen Smith, vp of Arturo Fuente, has been elected as the CRA’s president. Both are succeeding Robert Levin of Ashton/Holt’s who has served the dual roles for CRA since 2014.


In addition, Smith will be “leading the organization and its staff” as the CRA looks to find a new executive director over this summer.

“It has been a privilege to represent premium cigar manufacturers, retailers, and consumers in Washington,” said Levin in a press release. “It is now time for the next generation to continue this work, and I am very proud that my son Sathya is stepping up to join CRA’s Board.”

Sathya Levin will take Robert Levin’s seat on the board.

In addition, Cory Bappert, the president of Oliva Cigar Co., has been named vp of CRA; Drew Newman of J.C. Newman Cigar Co. is now the CRA’s secretary.

“I want to thank Rob for his dedication and extraordinary leadership over the past 7 years,” said Pesh. “With an increasing number of proposals to regulate and tax premium cigars, the need to fight for the right to enjoy a fine cigar is perhaps more important now than ever before.”

Cigar Rights of America is one of three main cigar trade organizations. While the organization is the only one that actively seeks consumers as members, its board is made up almost entirely of cigar manufacturers. The CRA is one of the three plaintiffs in the cigar industry’s lawsuit against FDA, and a key funder of the lawsuit; it also works on other federal and local lobbying efforts.

Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I handle the editing of our written content, the majority of the technical aspects of the site and work with the rest of our staff on content management, business development and more. I’ve lived in most corners of the country and now entering my second stint in Dallas, Texas. I enjoy boxing, headphones, the Le Mans 24-hour, wearing sweatshirts year-round and gyros. echte liebe.