There are very few Gibraltar companies that have been in business for 175 years. Saccone & Speed has this year joined that select club. It is a remarkable achievement. Everyone in Gibraltar knows the name “Saccone and Speed”, but surprisingly little is known about the company by the ordinary man in the street. Indeed, there were stories about the company and its principal players that had been lost in the mists of time and which not even the company’s directors knew. The company’s anniversary has been a good time to recover some of this lost history, and to place Saccone & Speed in its full context. Recently, the press in Gibraltar has recorded some of the history of the company. But there is so much more that could be told. This short piece will highlight just three of these aspects. The most remarkable of the company’s directors was Prince Vsevolode Ivanovich Romanoff, a godson of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. He was the last male Romanov to be born in Imperial Russia, in January 1914. He spent most of his life in exile in England. He married Lady Mary Lygon, a socialite, in 1939. While a Director of Saccone & Speed’s London subsidiary, he would be invited to tea at Buckingham Palace by Queen Mary. The Prince was the victim of an audacious robbery. Thieves telephoned his house when they saw him leave to see a horse race and told the maid that the Prince had been unexpectedly called abroad. She was asked to pack four travelling cases, which the thieves collected.
As a result, the Prince lost many clothes! Over the years, the company has been fortunate in having as Chairmen and Directors men of considerable business acumen, experience and vision. They included Jerome Saccone’s heirs, notably Albert Porral and Joseph Armand Patron and his son Sir Joseph Patron; James Speed’s heirs, particularly James Andrews-Speed and James Andrews-Speed Jr; John Mackintosh; Sir Edward Cottrell, his sons Anthony and MIchael Cottrell, and his grandson Jeremy Campbell-Lamerton. Many have been associated over the years with the Chamber of Commerce. Saccone & Speed were for many years bottlers of beer. They had various bottling plants in the United Kingdom and in Gibraltar. They also bottled sherry and port wines and manufactured brandy-based drinks, all under the Saccone & Speed label. At the start of World War II, they were manufacturing two drinks aimed primarily at the local market. They were called Merry Merry and Jungle Juice. Inexperienced servicemen would drink these brandy-based drinks as if they were beer, and they really did get intoxicated. So much so, the company voluntarily suspended production of these drinks for the remainder of the war to reduce drunkenness in the Garrison! In more recent time, the company ceased to bottle beer and turned instead to bottling Coca-Cola and other soft drinks and minerals. This year also sees the 65th anniversary of the commencement of the bottling of Coca-Cola in Gibraltar. The Saccone & Speed Group is much more than just a wholesaler of wines and spirits. It has had wide additional business interests over the years. Today, the Group also includes Abrines, a leading food distributor in Gibraltar; and Gaggero Cemats Home & Building Supplies, builders’ merchants and more. The Group continues to have an international dimension. Arbiter Fund Managers Ltd is a member of the Group, based in London, in the financial services sector. Casemates Iberia SA is active in duty free sales in the Iberian Peninsula. These two members of the Group evoke echoes of Jerome Saccone, in his capacity as a leading banker in Gibraltar, and of the hugely important role played by Saccone & Speed over many decades in supplying the Diplomatic Trade in a surprisingly wide range of countries. So, what is the secret of Saccone & Speed’s success? The company’s Chairman, Jeremy Campbell-Lamerton attributes it to the Group’s rigorous attention to detail, its committed service to its clients and the care of its staff. It is a powerful cocktail!