Advent buys global duty-free platform

The Boston-based private equity firm has acquired Switzerland-based Dufry Group, which operates duty-free shops around the world.

Advent International, the Boston-based global private equity specialist, today announced the purchase of Dufry Group, a Basel, Switzerland-headquartered operator of duty free shops.


Dufry Group, with 2003 revenue of $530 million (€425 million) was formerly called Weitnauer Group, which was founded by Switzerland's Weitnauer family in 1865 as a cigarette shop.


The acquisition separates Weitnauer’s retail operations from its cigarette wholesale and vending-machine businesses. The latter two will continue to operate under the family’s name.


The deal gives Advent ownership of 272 duty-free shops in 21 countries, primarily Tunisia, Italy, Mexico, France, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and the US, according to a press release. The shops are located in airports, cruise ships, sea ports and railway stations.


Ernest Bachrach, head of Advent’s Latin American operations, led the deal, which involved the firm’s Mexico City and Paris teams.


Joining Advent on the deal are Grupo Areas, a Spain-based travel services company.


Julian Diaz has been named chief executive officer of Dufry. Diaz has '15 years of senior management experience in the duty-free sector,' according to the press release.


In February, Advent purchased Argentina’s largest private currier company. In January, the firm, after two years of negotiations and political wrangling, reached agreement with the Bulgarian government over the acquisition of the state-owned Bulgarian Telecommunications Company.