Nice interview to Rodolfo Wehe (founder of Laboratorios Rowe)

NALs

Economist by Profession
Jan 20, 2003
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The interview is in Spanish.

Rodolfo Wehe was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina to German immigrants and lived there until 20 years old. He also lived in Germany, Mexico, El Salvador and other places until settling in Santo Domingo in 1973 or 1974. He was received by Dr Joaquín Balaguer and lived for many months in the El Embajador Hotel when Santo Domingo ended near there. He says he used to eat all the time at Vesuvio’s (used to be on the malecón).

He has met many important and famous people including the Somoza from Nicaragua, Papa Doc for Haiti, Fidel Castro from Cuba, Charles Bludhorn, Carlos Cisneros, Oscar de la Renta. In fact, he says that one time Oscar, who used to play tennis with him, said to him that he lives in Connecticut and will leave his Casa de Campo house to him if he pays the daily expenses, which he agreed. Though he was one of the earliest buyers in Casa de Campo before the Oscar de la Renta ordeal.

He arrived to the DR after living many years in San Salvador, El Salvador. He says at that time San Salvador was more beautiful than Santo Domingo, plus the Dominican capital already suffered from blackouts, water shortages, etc which didn’t exist in San Salvador. SD also didn’t had any highrises. Based on what he has seen and know, the DR is the country in Central America & the Caribbean that has grown the most and is better positioned than any country in the sub-region.

In 1980 he established the first factory (a copy of one in Mexico) that would initiate Dominican production of Laboratorios Rowe, today one of the most important in that field.

Interesting to know is that one of his (adopted) sons lives in China married to a very succesful woman and another is a very successful movie producer in the USA (Mark Foster, the creator of Cirque du Soliel, etc.) In fact, his first movie was financed by Rodolfo Wehe. He’s also involved in the Cabrete Jazz Festival and other stuff.


 

NALs

Economist by Profession
Jan 20, 2003
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He says that in most countries the pharmaceutical industry is dominated by the multinationals, but in the DR of 8 large pharmaceutical companies 6 are Dominican or something like that. If they all would be under the Dominican name it would be more clear how big is essentially the Dominican company since that is the main one for which all the other companies belong to.

His company is very big due to acquisitions of smaller companies, though the kept their original names rather than all have the Laboratorios Rowe name. They span 22 countries, all in Latin America. One of his company was number 1 in the pharmaceutical industry in Venezuela. While he still have it, sales have been way down since Maduro began to (mis-)govern that country. I think he said before Maduro sales were of US$500 million and now they are down to US$15 million or something like that. He is also leader of companies in Central America.

Not everything that he is involved are pharmaceutical companies. For example, he is the owner of Parque de las Ciencias in Uruguay (one of two free trade zone like industrial parks in that country.)

He also mentions that in the DR and other countries it’s common to find successful businesspeople that decide not to expand internationally (no surprise since the DR doesn’t exports enough, most of what it produces is consumed in the country,) He says many of these people have very succesful companies that give the owners the means to live a good life. They don’t complicate thrir lives more than it has to.
 

NALs

Economist by Profession
Jan 20, 2003
13,891
3,386
113
While he says that’s fine (in contrast to his decision to expand internationally, in fact he says that to several he offered to register their company and do all the steps for them and they still refused), I don’t see that as great. More exports could translate to more jobs in the DR, particularly of the manufacturing types. More needs to be done to incentivize them to export. It seems most successful Dominican business people are too conservative when it comes to that.