Thursday, October 22

The war in Galletas Cuétara, the empire created by six brothers and that ended in a ‘Falcon Crest’

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When they emigrated to Mexico in 1916, with what was on and without work, Juan and Florencio Gómez Cuétara it did not even occur to them that in a short time they would have their own humble cookie business. Nor, possibly, that his maximum creation in those ovens, the Maria cookie, by which we all know what is today the largest company in the biscuit sector in Spain, would go around the world and be in millions of homes.

But if there is something that they never imagined, not even remotely, it is that their precious golden pastes, one hundred years after its existence and the business success achieved, would be tarnished by their own descendants. To whom one day, these two Cantabrians from Reinosa They decided to bequeath Cuétara after a lifetime dedicated to cookies.

And, although it will probably be foreign to many, the second and third generation of one of the most important business sagas in Spain, Galletas Cuétara, has been involved in recent years in family wars and murky episodes in which interests, betrayals, millionaire inheritances have been mixed and one of the darkest characters of today has even appeared on the scene: the ex-commissioner Jose Manuel Villarejo.

The six Gómez Cuétara brothers who left for Mexico.

It all begins on the other side of the Atlantic, in Mexico City. There is where six of the eight Gómez Cuétara brothers, Juan, Florencio, Raimundo, Isaac, Paula and Pedro, They decide to leave at the beginning of the last century to find a better future. And it would be the first two who would first achieve it. In the country’s capital, Juan began working in his uncles’ grocery store until, helped by Florencio, he decided to create his own company in 1935, The Golden Spike. A factory in which two brothers will begin to produce biscuits and pasta for soups and Italian specialties.

Success came soon. So much so that in a short time they decided to capitalize on their name and expand the business, calling themselves Galletas Gómez Cuétara and opening a new factory in the town of Veracruz in [1945. However, the death of two of their brothers, the instability that plagued the country and their longing for their homeland made a year later that the two brothers returned with their family to Reinosa and settled there willing to repeat their achievements in Europe achieved in America. Although of course, then, they fell short.

I return to spain

In 1947, Juan and Florencio created a new company, Gómez Cuétara Hnos., After buying a small cookie maker in Santander. And three years later, they inaugurated the first large Cuétara factory in Reinosa (Cantabria), where the original recipes for many of the cookies that we continue to enjoy were created and elaborated for the first time. Today, it has 170 employees and claims to be one of the most technologically advanced in the group.

In less than a decade, the company became a strong competitor for national brands, even with the restrictions that existed then with raw materials such as flour. While the rest were dedicated to making a type of cookie, they put on the market cookies and crackers.

The first Cuétara cookies.

The first Cuétara cookies.

With the accounts positive, in the sixties the cookie maker continued to create products and in 1963 launched its mythical Assortment Cuétara —The one who is never missing at home for Christmas-, the Neapolitan sugar and cinnamon, and the well-known Campurrianas. Shortly after, Cuétara began to open factories throughout Spain, the most important in Villarejo de Salvanés (Madrid) and that, since then, it would become the central factory of the company and shortly after the largest in Europe. Villarejo will be key to the success and wealth of Juan and Florencio Gómez Cuétara (currently the company has a market share in value of 21% and exports to more than 50 countries). Although years later, paradoxes of life, a former commissioner with the same name will make the family experience the worst months of their lives.

The good work of those years allowed the family to acquire other companies, such as Portuguese Cookies, and become the company in the most important sector in the Peninsula. But they not only expanded in the biscuit sector, but also in the food sector, when the second generation began to take part in the company. It was Florencio Gómez Cuétara, son of Juan Cuétara (the founder of Cuétara), who in 1970 acquired Chips Ibérica SA To which he would change the name to Risi and would become a reference in appetizers and snacks in Spain.

Family war

One of the factories in Cuétara.

One of the factories in Cuétara.

In the eighties, despite the difficulties, mergers with other companies allowed an elderly Juan Gómez Cuétara to retire and leave the reins of the company in the hands of the second generation. However, the large number of heirs led to the family battle in 2000: to sell or not to sell? That is the question.

The two founders owned the entire company. On the one hand, Florencio with 40% of the shares opted for the sale, while Juan, who controlled 60%, was totally opposed. As if it were a soap opera, the trouble came when one of Juan’s sons went over to his uncle’s side, facing off with their own father. However, the final swing came when Juan’s sons sold 52% of the shares by surprise to the rice company SOS Arana, for 12,160 million pesetas. In this operation, half of the family stayed out of the company. And it would be in full shortly after, when the Nutrexpa Group bought it in 2008 for 215 million and, in 2015, bought it again Adam Foods.

The surname Cuétara was detached from the cookie company. And those business operations made the third generation of the family, of which they are part, practically a billionaire. Monica, Silvia and her other three siblings, grandchildren of the founder Juan Gómez Cuétara. They are no longer dedicated to the family business, but to their own ventures in Spain, the United States and Mexico, where their grandfather and uncle they sowed the first grain that would give rise to the fortune they possess today.


However, the relaxed life of the Cuétaras has been tormented in recent months by the involvement of one of them in one of the pieces that make up the macrocause against former commissioner Villajero and investigated by the National Court. It is the best known, the lady of the coated paper and of which many define as the new Isabel Preysler, Silvia Gómez Cuétara.

Everything originates from her marriage to the employer Luis Garcia-Cereceda, owner of Procisa, the construction company of the exclusive Madrid residential area known as The farm. García-Cereceda was married to Mercedes López, from whose marriage they were born Yolanda García-Cereceda and Susana García-Cereceda. After the divorce of his first wife, the businessman remarried, this time with Silvia Gómez Cuétara.

Everything seemed to be going well between the stepmother and her stepdaughters until the sudden death of the businessman in 2010 due to a brain tumor led to a fight between the three for the inheritance of García-Cereceda, valued at more than 1,000 million euros. A confrontation in which there was no lack of judicial processes of mental incapacitation, loss of custody of children, threats of eviction, threats, blackmail … And to which in 2013 the corrupt commissioner José Manuel Villarejo arrived to put the icing on the cake.

Silvia Gómez Cuétara, with her new partner, Juan Antonio Pérez-Simón.

Silvia Gómez Cuétara, with her new partner, Juan Antonio Pérez-Simón.

Susana García Cereceda, owner of 51% of the companies bequeathed by her father, turned to Villarejo, according to her own version, to investigate a competing company. But according to the Prosecutor’s Office, he did it to know the private life of his sister Yolanda and her husband Jaime Ostos Junior, and that of the architect of La Finca Joaquin Torres and his father’s widow, the heir of Cuétara. The ex-commissioner offered to find out if Silvia had remade her love life and as far as she was aware of her father’s assets that had not been included in the first distribution of the inheritance. In the audios of the investigation of the case, Susana García Cereceda is very interested in knowing all the possible data.

In those files, the then commissioner of the National Police even offers to reveal intimate secrets of the life of his stepmother, whom he calls at all times as Cue. And he admits to having bought a report supposedly commissioned by Silvia Gómez-Cuétara from the detective company Method 3 to know the real patrimony of the inheritance of the businessman García-Cereceda. Everything came to light in the investigation of the Land Case, for which Susana García-Cereceda was arrested for revealing secrets, false documents and bribery.

Three months ago, the latter, the main defendant in the Land piece, deposited 10,000 euros to each of those injured by the alleged espionage commissioned by the wealthy heiress to the former commissioner Villarejo. According to various media, he has done so as an advance as civil liability before the possibility of reaching an agreement with his sister, Silvia García-Cereceda and not facing Villarejo.

The Cuétara factory in Villarejo de Salvanés (Madrid).

The Cuétara factory in Villarejo de Salvanés (Madrid).

For her part, Silvia Gómez Cuétara remains free and has had a relationship for five years with Juan Antonio Pérez-Simón, a close friend of her deceased husband. For her and her family it all started in Villarejo (from Salvanés) and it may, perhaps, end as well.

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