In a corporate press release today, Gurkha Cigars announced Kaizad Hansotia is resigning his position as the Chairman of Gurkha, effective immediately. Over the past few days Gurkha has been embroiled in a public relations firestorm after Kaizad’s personal Facebook page posted an extremely insensitive statement with respect to the George Floyd murder and failed to convince many on Social Media that his site was hacked as he stated in a Twitter post.
The company noted, in the press release, that Jim Colucci will assume the role of CEO and President of the company. Mr. Colucci has been with Gurkha since January 1, 2019 when he assumed full operational control. Taking the reins of Gurkha, Mr. Colucci brought more than 40 years of experience in the cigar industry with prominent positions in Consolidated Cigar Corporation, Altidas, and of course Sindicato Cigars – a company he help to found in 2013 and is still the CEO of. Rebuilding the Gurkha company image may be one of his biggest challenges of his storied career.
Removal Hansotia’s Name and Town Hall
Gurkha also stated that all future packaging will no longer bear the name K. Hansotia. It should be noted, the company has yet to update their web page to remove all images and statements from Kaizad Hansotia and they have not stated yet if he is divesting his ownership stake in the company. Gurkha has planned a global town hall tonight, June 10th, at 8 PM to address the latest news.
Gurkha made it clear that they believe smoking a cigar should always be an enjoyable and unifying experience and took a strong stance in stating:
“We are outraged and saddened at the content of previous posts made on Mr. Hansotia’s personal social media accounts. These in no way reflect the position or beliefs of the company, its founding mission or its employees. We stand in solidarity against racism and for racial justice. We cannot and will not tolerate words or acts of hate, injustice or oppression.
We understand that because of the actions of our founder, we must work to regain the trust of our customers and cigar community. We look forward to working toward this goal together.“
Update June 10 Global Town Hall
On the global town hall, the company stated they are working with Mr. Hansotia too divest his 50% ownership of the company and are currently looking to find a buyer. Jim Colucci also stated that Kaizad is no longer involved in the company other than being a 50% owner and that is expected to change in abut 90 days. The company also noted that they still stand behind the fact that Kaizad’s Facebook was hacked but they recognize he also had previous insensitive posts in the past. The company noted that Kaizod has no idea how social media works, he does not understand how things go viral.
The attendees noted that social media is the platform for stating your views and we can not look past what Kaizad has posted and who the speech was targeted at.
“if were not the one that was hit by the rock that was thrown, you don’t understand”
Jim Colucci stated this is has been the hardest 3 days of his career.
From a retailer perspective, one individual noted he was in an all black shop in Atlanta where a patron walked in the humidor and tossed all the boxes of Gurkha on the floor.
The company needs to understand what the head of the company did.
Gurkha noted they are looking at the possibility of running new Gurkha events to have a conversation. The participants on the town hall noted that the company can not say it was hack, it will not fly for those that were hurt.
Don’t sell Kaizad as a person, focus on the brand on participant noted. Colucci says he understands and in all his years he has fired people but never fired an owner.
One patron stated – How is Gurkha going to get the African American community to buy Gurkha again? The company said they are going to do all they can regain the trust.
The company noted the high level of of charity they are active in and the support of great organizations. They don’t talk about this because they felt they “don’t give to receive” as a corporate culture. The company would lope that the Gurkha fans acknowledge that the company is sincere and trying to make things right.
The company also noted that they need to invest more in diversity training and building support with the black community and they will be more transparent in this approach.
One viewer asked if the company will be bring in African American representation into the company. Colucci said yes, However the company representatives got a bit defensive by bringing up the fact that they; Cuban American and Latino Woman are in the company. This did not settle well with the attendees. The fact that this is just coming up on this dialogue is disturbing.
One African American wholesaler, that carries Gurkha in NJ, said he knows Kaizad and does not see him as a racist, though he feels the company is doing one hell of a start move the needle and start the hard conversation to move forward.
Another viewer asked the simple question – “Can you imagine if all your labor was free?” He did note he is encouraged with the dialogue, but he is looking for action – The Brand is Bigger Than the Man. he also made it clear – “Black People were the only ones that came to America against their will”He closed with the statement, “Black people will get behind Gurkha if Gurkha gets out in front of this.’
In closing, the viewers note that it took a lot of courage to have this dialogue and they hope the company is sincere going forward as action is what is being looked for.