Back in Bahrain the three of us partners started to specialise with Rob running the after sales side, Bob, Porsche Design and I Porsche car sales. However, as with every business, we were all sales people in and out of the office and passed each other leads.
When Bob opened the Porsche Design shop in the Sheraton Hotel, called the Porsche Design Boutique, this was to be the first Porsche Design Boutique in the world and received a lot of congratulations from Hans Peter Porsche and the PD management.
Our shop designers had coordinated with them to create this first PD Shop and therefore set the design for the entire shops in the future. This was the start that led us to another first with PD.
Bob then negotiated with the Civil Aviation authorities in order to set-up a Porsche Design Duty-Free shop at Bahrain International Airport. This all strengthened our position with Porsche Design and by this point we were the Middle East Distributors for Porsche Design Products, with Bob setting up Agents in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Jordan.
Bob and I talked about the airport duty-free and the possibility to make sales there much larger following a visit by Bob to Singapore via Dubai for the Duty-free Conference. It transpired that Bob had travelled to Singapore with Colin McLoughlin of Aer Rianta. Rianta was the Irish Duty-Free company, who was at that the time about to set up operations at Dubai Airport (later Colin moved to join them permanently). Bob and Colin discussed doing something similar for Bahrain and Colin gave Bob the business card for the right contact at Aer Rianta’s head office. On his return Bob talked it over with us and then with all the independent shop operators at the airport, he got a general approval to discuss matters with The Authorities.
Bob established a very brief business plan and proposal and set up meeting to see Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa (affectionately known at the time as “Hamad bin Airport”) who was the head of civil aviation in Bahrain. The meeting went well enough but no decision was made as Sheikh Hamad informed that it would need to go for an approval and he would advise following that meeting. Well it was not to be, or at least not then. As we were told that this would never be accepted as part of the Airports strategy and The Authorities preferred to leave the on-going Duty-free business in the hands of the Bahrain companies that operated the independent shops.
So that was that, but a short time later and a miraculous thing happened and Bahrain Duty Free was formed and all the shops including ours were told we would have to close and would only be able to supply the new company which was to be operated by, would you believe it, Aer Rianta!