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Davidoff's No. 1

Cigar Aficionado interviews Davidoff's director general Ernst Schneider.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Rush Limbaugh, Spring 94

(continued from page 1)

C.A.: What was the date that you took over Davidoff?
Schneider: We took over Davidoff in 1970.

C.A.: Was Davidoff offered to another company before yours?
Schneider: No, Davidoff offered his shop because he was convinced he was on top of his business then, and, at 65 years old, he thought it was a good moment to sell. Many people said that I was crazy to pay such a price for one shop only, but I had an idea in my head. I said that we would internationalize the Davidoff business because the base was created, and I had developed a special concept. I always used three important points as a means to success. The first point is that quality and price have to be in order. The second point is the concept has to be in order, and the third point is that you have to make a special distribution system. With all of these together, you will have a successful luxury brand.

C.A.: You mention that people said you were crazy to pay so much for one store. What did you pay?
Schneider: Oh, I don't remember (laughs).

C.A.: Was it under or over a million?
Schneider: Over a million.

C.A.: Over a million?
Schneider: Yes.

C.A.: In a dollar equivalent?
Schneider: Yes, yes (laughs more).

C.A.: A million in those days was a lot of money-- it's a lot of money today. But it was even more money then.
Schneider: Naturally, that was the reason why people said I was crazy.

C.A.: Just some general questions. The antismoking movement has been very strong in the United States and now seems to be expanding to Europe. There are various parts of the rest of the world where there are many restrictions and a lot of talk of more restrictions. How do you see the environment today with the antismoking pressures on the cigar lover?
Schneider: You know, there was a time when, if a lady smoked tobacco, she was burned at the stake. So, our situation is not so bad. In fact, when all is forbidden, it's even a little more interesting, and I'm happy to say that we had a vote in Switzerland last Saturday and Sunday on whether the state would forbid advertising for alcohol and tobacco products. Two-thirds of the people voted against this proposed law. So, we can go on. We are all adults, and we know what we have to do. God created tobacco and the grape, among other things, so when we enjoy them in a reasonable way, there shouldn't be any problem.

C.A.: Moving a little bit closer to home: you know that Cigar Aficionado has an international readership, but, of course, the vast majority of the circulation is in the United States, and so for that reason I ask this question. Today you have Davidoff stores in New York and Los Angeles. The only other store that is more or less in your category is Dunhill. They, of course, are more diversified in terms of products, but they have about 11 stores in the United States. Do you have plans to expand your retail business in the United States?
Schneider: Well, you see that's one of the points of our concept because when we started in Europe, we started first in each country with a Davidoff pioneer shop, and from this point on, we named the best cigar shops as Davidoff dépositaires. Besides this, we go to the best restaurants and hotels to place our humidors of Davidoff cigars. This is one of our systems to control the distribution. But as soon as you are losing your distribution, you are losing your luxury brand. That's one of the reasons we are very strict in America. We will have in America probably four stores and not more. But we will also have all of our key dépositaires in other regions to help build the brand.

C.A.: Which are the two other cities?
Schneider: We would like to have something in Florida and Chicago, but don't hold me to it.

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