Carlos M. de la Cruz, Sr. is Chairman of CC1 Companies, which includes Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottlers, CC1 Beer Distributors, Coca-Cola Bottlers Trinidad & Tobago, and Florida Caribbean Distillers with a combined payroll of 2,500 employees and annual sales of $1 billion.
Born in Havana (1942) he lived in New York City and Madrid prior to coming to Miami in 1975. In 1959 he graduated from high school from the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Economics and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 1962 and 1963 followed by a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Miami’s School of Law in 1979.
In 1963, he started out as a financial analyst at Citibank appointed to a small committee that devised the structure for the first bank-owned credit card. In 1967, he moved to Spain as Director of Investments of a Rockefeller-controlled mutual fund later becoming a partner in investment bank Banif, heading its corporate finance department, traveling to the Middle East seeking investors.
In 1975, he started law school in Miami and in 1984, he bought the Anheuser-Busch distributorship in Miami and then in 1990 the first of four local car dealerships. The car dealerships grew and were purchased by AutoNation in 1996, while the distributorship also grew and was purchased by Anheuser-Busch in 2007, allowing him greater funds for his investments in the Caribbean.
He is a Senior Trustee and was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Miami (1999- 2001}. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was Chairman of United Way of Dade County (1993-1995). He has been on the boards of Georgetown University, Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, Florida International University, the Dade Foundation, the Business Assistance Center, and Miami Partners for Progress. He endowed the De la Cruz-Mentschikoff Law and Economics Chair at the University of Miami and the De la Cruz Doctoral Candidates Fellows in Behavioral Finance at the Wharton School.
His numerous recognitions include: the Alexis de Tocqueville Award from the United Way; the Silver Medallion Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews; the Distinguished Service Award from Florida International University; the Joseph Wharton Award from the University of Pennsylvania; the Social Responsibility Award from the Urban League; the Simon Wiesenthal Foundation Award; the Presidential Medal from Georgetown University; the Lawyers in Leadership Award from the Center for Ethics & Public Service by the University of Miami; the New American Award from Catholic Charities Legal Services; and the Humanitarian Award from the American Red Cross.
He and his wife, Rosa Rionda de la Cruz, have been married since 1962. They have five children and 17 grandchildren. In the 1980s, Rosa and Carlos started collecting art at their home which they would open to the public. From 2001 to 2007, Rosa founded and chaired the non-profit Moore Space in the Design District. It was then that they started planning to build the De la Cruz Collection at 23 N.E. 41st Street in Miami, a 30,000 square foot museum.
The Collection brings together paintings, sculptures, and installations. It is a private museum, not government funded, offering free admission. It organizes lectures, educational scholarships, educational travel for college students, and workshops for grade school children.
Rosa recollects that the passion for collecting art has been in her family for generations. Her father was an architect and both her family and Carlos’ family collected art. The first piece they bought for their own home was one by Rufino Tamayo as they first thought about specializing in Latin American art, but then decided to focus on contemporary art in general. Rosa doesn’t see her work as collecting, actually, it is an extension of the art space at home, and she is really committed to Miami and art as an intellectual pursuit. With Carlos she is a student of the history of art and are frequent lecturers.