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Zino Davidoff; 'King of Cigars'

January 17, 1994|From Associated Press

GENEVA — Zino Davidoff, the flamboyant Jewish emigre who made Havana cigars world famous, has died at the age of 87.

He died Friday, according to the Swiss newspaper Journal de Geneve, which said Sunday that his family had given them an obituary to publish today.

Davidoff, a longtime cigar connoisseur, was widely known as "King of the Cigars." His philosophy was "smoke less but better."

He said in a newspaper interview in 1991 that for him a good cigar was a "moment of pure dreaming."

He regularly took on the medical profession, arguing that good cigars in moderation were not harmful.

The son of a cigar merchant, Davidoff was born in 1906 in Kiev, which is now the Ukrainian capital. His family left the country in 1911 for Switzerland.

According to a company biography, one of the first customers at the family's new shop in Geneva was Vladimir Lenin, who spent seven years in Switzerland before returning to Russia in 1917 to lead the Communist revolution.

In 1924, Davidoff left Switzerland for South America.

"In Argentina I learned the tango," he said. "I then got to know people who told me the only true tobacco was to be found in Havana. I stayed for a few years in Havana, where I learned everything I know about cigars."

Davidoff kept his Cuban suppliers for more than 40 years. During this time he built up an international business empire, selling his expensive, hand-rolled products to wealthy industrialists and bankers.

But in 1989, he switched to supplies from the nearby Dominican Republic, complaining about product quality in Cuba.

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