2 minute read

Roberto Crispulo Goizueta: 1931-1997: Businessman, Chemical Engineer

Left Family Business For Coca-cola

After graduating from Yale, Goizueta moved back to Havana to marry his high school sweetheart. Goizueta and Olguita were married on June 14, 1953, at the Church of the Sacred Heart, the most elegant church in the city. As expected, Goizueta went to work as his father's assistant, preparing for the day when he would take over his father's business. Goizueta only lasted a year in this position before his fiercely independent spirit aspired to accomplish more than simply being the boss' son. "I was a freshly graduated chemical engineer, and everyone was telling me how great I was," Goizueta was quoted in David Greising's biography I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke. "It was obvious to me that, no matter what I did, everyone would say it was great because I was the owner's son."

On June 18, 1954, Goizueta saw an employment ad in the Diario de La Marina newspaper announcing a position for an English-speaking chemical engineer. The job was in the quality control section of a company called Cia Embotelladora, whose parent company was Coca-Cola. The job entailed overseeing the production processes in Cuba's three Coke plants and it paid $550 a month. Leaving his father's business was a bold move on Goizueta's part because his wife was pregnant with their first child and he did not want to alienate his father. His father agreed to support Goizueta's decision because he believed that Goizueta would return to the family business after a couple of years. Crispulo Goizueta even loaned Roberto $8,000 to purchase 100 shares of Coca-Cola stock. According to David Greising, Crispulo Goizueta told his son: "You shouldn't work for someone else, you should work for yourself."

Goizueta was a hard worker who always looked to improve the quality of the product. His career, however, was severely affected by the political situation in Cuba. In 1959 Fidel Castro and his revolutionary army took control of Havana. Under Castro's communist regime, wealthy families like Goizueta's were the targets of continual harassment. In addition Castro was quickly nationalizing the large companies in Cuba and it was only a matter of time before his government moved against Coca-Cola's Cuban operations. By this time the Goizuetas had three children, Roberto, Olga, and Javier, and they were beginning to fear for their family's safety. In April of 1960 they sent their three children to Miami to live with Olguita's family, who had emigrated earlier. Goizueta and his wife stayed behind to finish up some business for Coca-Cola. In October of that year, they also fled to Miami with only $200 and a few personal belongings. Later that month Castro seized the Coca-Cola plants in Cuba and forbade engineers and company executives from leaving the country. Goizueta was lucky that he had left just weeks before this political move.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: E(mily) R. Frank (1967-) Biography - Personal to Martha Graham (1893–1991) BiographyRoberto Crispulo Goizueta: 1931-1997: Businessman, Chemical Engineer Biography - Born Into Cuba's Social Elite, Left Family Business For Coca-cola, Climbed The Corporate Ladder