U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is attending a Palm Beach fundraiser Friday at the home of Pepe Fanjul, Jr., executive vice president of Florida Crystals and vice president of Fanjul Corporation. The Fanjul family are among the most powerful sugar tycoons in the world.
Pepe's father, who is on the host committee, was one of the first people Rubio greeted as he left the stage following his speech formally announcing his 2016 presidential campaign. Pepe Sr. and his brother Alfy, are well known in political circles nationally and internationally.
Last year, Alfy caused considerable controversy after a series of trips to Cuba. He told the Washington Post:
"The [Fanjul] family was in Cuba for 150 years, and, yes, at the end of the day, I’d like to see our family back in Cuba, where we started. . . . But it has to be under the right circumstances.
“One day we hope that the United States and Cuba would find a way so the whole Cuban community could be able to live and work together.”
Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz Balart and Ileana Ros Lethinen condemned the trips.
Pepe Sr. is a Republican. His brother is Democratic. Both fled Cuba and began building their sugar empire. Many suspect the political division is more about access for the family interests rather than a real divide in political philosophy.
They have been enormously successful.
In 1998, Florida Crystals and Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida joined together to form the ASR Group. It is now the largest and most powerful sugar company in the world. ASR owns these brands: Domino Foods Inc., C & H Sugar, Red Path Sugar (Canada), Tate & Lyle Sugars (London - largest refinery in Europe), Lyles Golden Syrup (London), Sidul (Portugal), Sores (Portugal), and TLPT (London - sugar research)
In recent years ASR has been on a buying spree. Three of the biggest purchases are:
- 2010 - $318 million to purchase Tate & Lyle (London)
- 2012 - $ 65 million to become majority shareholder of Belize Sugar Industries Ltd.
- 2013 - Undisclosed tens-of-millions for a 50 percent stake in SFIR Raffineria di Brindisi S.p.A of Italy. (Note: Second largest refinery in Europe plus its sales arm).
ASR Group does not include businesses owned separately by each company such as Florida Crystals extensive operations in the Dominican Republican.
ASR describes itself as "the largest vertically integrated cane sugar refiner in the world. Our nine refineries are found in five countries across the globe and collectively can produce more than six million tonnes of sugar. We also own and operate sugar mills in the United States, Mexico and Belize."
The event begins with a reception at 11:30 a.m. Among those expected to attend is former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner.