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Wharton plans business conference series on Cuba

The scene outside the Capitolio in Havana on Dec. 18, a day after the Obama administration and the communist government of Raul Castro announced moves to try to normalize relations.
The scene outside the Capitolio in Havana on Dec. 18, a day after the Obama administration and the communist government of Raul Castro announced moves to try to normalize relations. AP

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is the first out of the gate to announce a high-level Cuba conference.

Knowledge@Wharton, the Wharton School’s online research and business analysis journal, and The Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania announced Tuesday that Wharton will host a major conference for senior U.S. executives to gain insight into the legal and business challenges of doing business in Cuba as well as to formulate a strategic roadmap for entry into the market.

The inaugural conference, titled the “Cuba Opportunity Summit,” will be in New York City on April 1 and is expected to attract about 200 senior-level executives. The conference, which is planned to be a series, will be co-chaired by Faquiry Diaz Cala, president and CEO of Tres Mares Group, a Miami-based investment firm, and Mauro F. Guillén, director of The Lauder Institute, and a professor of management at the Wharton School. They plan to hold a second conference in Havana later this year, Diaz Cala said.

The conference series is targeted at U.S.-based and multinational companies formulating their board strategies on Cuba, in the wake of President Barack Obama’s Dec. 17 announcement that the United States will seek to forge diplomatic relations with Cuba. “The conference is aimed at CEOs and boards of directors trying to get their hands around the opportunities” and will likely include companies in the cruise industry, home building, tourism, transportation, technology and financial services, Diaz Cala said. For instance, “credit card processing will be one of the first things allowed, which could be pretty interesting.”

Speakers for the April 1 summit, still awaiting final confirmation, will include present and former U.S. government leaders, U.S. and multinational business leaders and economists from Havana, Diaz Cala said.

Mukul Pandya, Knowledge@Wharton’s editor-in-chief, will host the conference. “President Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba offers an unprecedented opportunity for North American corporations. Many firms will be considering how to gain a first-mover advantage in this emerging market,” Pandya said.

More information, including details on how to register, is available at www.knowledge.whartonevents.com/cuba.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

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