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Davidoff's No. 1

Cigar Aficionado interviews Davidoff's director general Ernst Schneider.

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C.A.: Really? What is the turnover of that?
Schneider: 220 million Swiss francs.
C.A.: At retail?
Schneider: No.
C.A.: That's your share?
Schneider: Yes.
C.A.: What's the Swiss franc?
Schneider: 1.50 to the dollar.
C.A.: So more than $100 million?
Schneider: Yes.
C.A.: When did you introduce this product?
Schneider: Four-and-a-half years ago.
C.A.: Is pricing for your cigars the same worldwide?
Schneider: No. [But] it's practically the same. The only differences are made by taxes. It's always the same basic price.
C.A.: And do you sell them duty-free?
Schneider: Duty-free is normally only 20 percent less.
C.A.: How old are you now?
Schneider: Seventy-two. I should make 100 years with a good Davidoff cigar.
C.A.: Where do you see Davidoff going in the next decade?
Schneider: We have a very effective and small management team so we can quickly decide on something. This is one of our strengths. When the big companies are writing reports, we are profiting from decisions. This is our strength.
I have a man who is in the picture about everything; so there is no problem with following up things. This is Mr. Schelker [Georges Schelker, CEO].
C.A.: So he's your heir apparent?
Schneider: Exactly.
C.A.: And how old is he?
Schneider: He is 55. But the other guys who are in the management are all around 40 and 45, so people are always coming up from the bottom. We don't engage people from outside.
C.A.: Where do you see Davidoff a decade from now?
Schneider: Davidoff will still be developing. Davidoff will get stronger and stronger.
C.A.: Do you see yourselves with a more complete line like Dunhill?
Schneider: No, no, no. We have ties only to be protected in the textile category. That's the only reason why we have them. But we will stay--and this is a clear declaration--No. 1 in the luxury-cigar business and in the luxury-tobacco business. All the rest has to help to reach this goal and to go on in this direction.
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