Rafael Guilisasti Gana

  • Interviewed 18 December 2008 in Santiago, Chile, by Andrea Lluch, Research Fellow, HBS
  • Clip Duration – 2:25

Mr. Guilisasti reviews his business career and the history of Concha y Toro, highlighting major crises and expansion periods, the company’s differentiating factors vis-à-vis its competitors, and the key to business continuity. He emphasizes diversification and internationalization. He elaborates on the relationship between wine-producing companies and the Chilean business community as well as the relationship between business and society. He concludes by identifying the traits that have defined him as a businessman.

Interview Excerpt

P: Si tuviera que remontarse lo más atrás posible en el tiempo, a esta experiencia que inició su padre, ¿qué ciclos identificaría como los más relevantes en la evolución de la compañía?

R: Bueno, desde 1960 a la fecha, hemos vivido muchos ciclos distintos. Hasta fines de la década de 1960, a pesar de la visión recién mencionada, la empresa se centraba mucho en el mercado interno, que ya se caracterizaba por una crisis de consumo. Como sucedió en todos los países productores de vino, esta situación comenzó a reflejarse en una baja del consumo de alcohol y de vino. En Chile, el consumo per cápita empezó a caer de manera acelerada a mediados de la década de 1960. Esto provocó una reducción del mercado.

En segundo lugar, la radicalización y polarización de políticas públicas que comenzaron a prevalecer en el contexto socio-político de 1970 se tradujeron en una reforma agraria, de la cual yo tengo apenas memoria, ya que no la viví directamente. Esta reforma produjo una gran preocupación en las viñas, porque implicaba una desintegración operativa de las empresas. No obstante, se logró que las viñas integradas e industrializadas quedaran excluidas del proceso expropiatorio de la reforma agraria. De todos modos, todo esto generó muchísima inquietud. Luego la situación cambió, ya sabemos qué ocurrió en la historia política de Chile.

Y viene inmediatamente la crisis de 1982, que significó un gran cambio, una transferencia de propiedad muy grande. Afortunadamente, Viña Concha y Toro tenía muy poco endeudamiento y sobrevivió. A partir de allí, la empresa se insertó en esta dinámica exportadora que no ha cesado hasta hoy, gracias a la apertura al mercado exterior y las estrategias de desarrollo exportador y de libre mercado que implementó Chile, y que fueron abriendo mercados de manera sucesiva.

Q: If you could go as far back in time as possible, to this experience initiated by your father, which periods would you identify as the most relevant in the evolution of the company?

A: From 1960 to the present, we have undergone many different periods. In the first place, until the end of the 1960s -in spite of the vision I have just mentioned- the company focused mainly on the domestic market, where a deep consumer crisis had already set in. As in all wine producing countries, this crisis translated into a decrease in alcohol and wine consumption. In the mid-1960s, per capita consumption in Chile fell rapidly. This resulted in market shrinkage.

Second, political radicalization and polarization prevailing in the socio-political context of the 1970s precipitated an agrarian reform, of which I have little memory, since I did not experience it directly. This reform produced much concern in the vineyards; people feared it could lead to the operational disintegration of companies. Eventually, however, integrated and industrialized vineyards managed to avoid the agrarian reform expropriation process. Anyway, apprehension was widespread. Later, this problem was settled; we all know the events that took place in Chilean political history.

The 1982 crisis followed immediately and, along with it, a huge change in ownership transfer. Fortunately, the vineyard had little debt and managed to carry on. Since then, the vineyard has continued to be part of a dynamic group that has not ceased exporting until today, thanks to the implementation in Chile of open market policies, export development and free market strategies, which have opened up new markets.

All the interviews are audio recordings with Spanish and English transcripts. Excerpts from these interviews are included in this web guide. The collection of oral history interviews are part of Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School. Please contact Baker Library Historical Collections at to receive a full copy of the transcript.

Copyright Notice
The Latin American Oral History Collection is owned by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. It is being provided solely for the purpose of teaching or individual research. Any other use - including commercial reuse, mounting on other systems, or other forms of redistribution - requires permission of the appropriate office of Harvard University.