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An Interview With Dr. Reto Cina

President and Chief Executive Officer, Oettinger/Davidoff Group
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Andy Garcia, Mar/April 2004

Reto Cina is the guardian of one of the cigar world's most treasured and famous cigar brands -- Davidoff. As chief executive officer of the Oettinger/Davidoff Group of Basel, Switerland, the spry, slim, 57-year-old has shaken some of the dust of the notably conservative company during his six-year tenure, expanding its portfolio of cigar brands with full-flavored cigars, most notably the Davidoff Millennium Blend Series. Cina was instrumental in creating a joint venture combining the $2 billion company with a pair of hip partners to create one of the cigar world's most expensive offerings -- the $39 Zino Platinum Crown Series Stretch. Recently, Dr. Cina met with senior editor David Savona to speak about his plans for the Davidoff group.

David Savona: You joined Davidoff in 1997. How did that come about?

Dr. Reto Cina: I was running a discount chain called Pick Pay in Switzerland for ten years. Part of their assortment was cigarettes. Oettinger Imex was running the wholesale cigarette business of Pick Pay. So through this business relationship, I got to know these people, and in 1995, I got a phone call from the managing director of Oettinger Imex asking if I would be ready to join as CEO of the Oettinger/Davidoff Group. And I said yes, of course. We let quite a long time pass, almost one year after the first meeting, but I got to know all of the family members, because at that time, the Oettinger Imex Group was still owned by three families. This has now changed -- there is only one family owning the whole thing -- the Schneider family.

 

Q:  Did you deal with Oettinger chairman Dr. [Ernst] Schneider in the negotiations to bring you into the company?

A:  Directly with him. Formally speaking, it was the vote of the directors who gave the final OK, but as a matter of fact, it was he who said, 'I want to go with it.'

 

Q: I've heard that things tend to move kind of slowly at Davidoff, or with the Group. Did you think it was unusual for an entire year to go by between being hired and the meetings?

A:  Certainly, it isn't unusual. But I wasn't under pressure at all because I had a good position. It may be a Group thing, that you let pass a little while to really get the feeling whether two characters may get along together or not. So I think it was a good idea. Obviously, it was the right decision for both sides.

 


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