Chuck Feeney: how the billionaire’s business started
Businessman Chuck Feeney is known not only as the founder of the Duty Free Shoppers chain. He stands out brightly among other billionaires for his uncommon modesty and kindness. The entrepreneur has given his part of the company’s shares to a charitable foundation and is actively engaged in helping other people.
Charles Feeney was born in 1931 in New Jersey to Irish immigrants. The period of the Great Depression affected his childhood – his parents had to work hard to provide for their children. So from a young age, Chuck began to work part-time, helping his parents. After school, Feeney joined the army, where he spent 4 years as a radio operator. At the time, members of the U.S. Navy had the opportunity to get a free education at a university in the country, and Chuck went to university. As a student, he started a small business selling sandwiches and other snack foods to other students.
After graduating, Feeney decided to move to France to open his own business. During that trip, the young man actively pondered the option of trading without duty and excise taxes. In the ’50s, Chuck and his university buddy Robert Miller began selling alcoholic beverages to the U.S. military, and over time, the audience expanded to tourists. The business was making good profits, and the partners expanded the range to include cigarettes and perfumes.In 1960 the businessmen created their company Duty Free Shoppers, abbreviated as DFS, which was originally registered in Hong Kong. Gradually the company’s stores appeared in Europe and the USA. The outlets were located at border checkpoints, as there was no excise and taxes on products. It was the latter that accounted for a large portion of the formation of the retail cost of goods in a standard store. Feeney and Miller’s business quickly gained popularity, especially in Asian countries. The fact is that in Japan, a bottle of whiskey sold for $35, while at Duty Free it was $7.
The entrepreneurs understood that their company was designed for travelers, which means the development of tourism would also contribute to their prosperity. So in 1976, DFS invested $5 million to create an air harbor in the Mariana Islands, which increased the flow of visitors. And the chain’s store located there was making good profits.
In the ’90s, the company’s profits were about $300 million a year, and Miller and Feeney became one of the richest people in the United States. The Duty Free chain now has more than 420 stores. After Chuck sold a block of stock in 1996, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy Corporation and Robert Miller became the holders of the securities.