Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega are back in control of the 601, Cubao, Murcielago and more—but EO Brands is officially done. Two weeks after Rocky Patel informed retailers the company would no longer be handling distribution of the EO marks, United Tobacco/EO Brands has been bought back by the duo, divided and dissolved.

Espinosa and Ortega, both of whom have announced new companies in 2012, bought back the 50% stake Rocky Patel took in the company two years ago and then late last week, sat down to divide the brands. The two started EO Brands in 2003 and through distribution and manufacturing agreements have been tied to Miami Cigar & Company, Rocky Patel and My Father Cigars.

As part of the agreement, Espinosa will get the rights to the 601, Murcielago and Mi Barrio brands—the latter of which has spent the last few years as an exclusive to Famous Smoke Shop.

Ortega will get Cubao, as well REO and Vibe—two dormant marks introduced in 2005. Last year, changes in Cubao’s distribution were announced. Ortega admitted for the last few months the brand’s status has been largely in flux, but told halfwheel he wasn’t concerned.

“I have a ton of retailers asking me about Cubao.”

He said he would evaluate the brand and its distribution, but reiterated that the brand would be available for those who wanted it through his new Ortega Cigar Company. He also hinted that REO and Vibe might be back at some later date. Previously, Ortega indicated he expects nothing new from his company at IPCPR.

Espinosa told halfwheel he is now in complete control of the 601, Murcielago and Mi Barrio marks and they will be sold through his new Espinosa Premium Cigars, which is expecting to ship its first orders nationally in the coming weeks.

In separate calls, both Espinosa and Ortega confirmed that EO Brands as a mark is retired.


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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 have written about the cigar industry for more than a decade, covering everything from product launches to regulation to M&A. In addition, I handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff here at halfwheel. I enjoy playing tennis, watching boxing, falling asleep to the Le Mans 24, wearing sweatshirts year-round and eating gyros. echte liebe.