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O'Hare plum won by McDonald's, Duty Free team Master concessions pact goes to venture


Duty Free International Inc. found a big friend in McDonald's Corp., and together they picked off one of the biggest plums in the airport retail industry yesterday -- the master concessions contract at the new international terminal at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

The tentative deal, which is subject to approval by the Chicago city council, represents a big chunk of new business for Ridgefield, Conn.-based DFI, which has a division headquarters and and operations center in Glen Burnie. The joint venture, Chicago Aviation Partners, is also a rare foray outside the fast-food business for McDonald's.

DFI operates duty-free stores on the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada as well as 69 stores in 14 international airports. The Chicago deal was one of the three major concession contracts expected to be awarded in the airport industry this year, along with Dallas and Denver. Duty Free's stock jumped $2.125, to close at $28.25, after the announcement that the Chicago Department of Aviation chose the joint venture.

When it is fully up and running in October, the Chicago terminal will be the largest international terminal in the United States. The arrivals area is scheduled to open May 27.

As master concessionaire, the joint venture will be responsible for managing retail, food and beverage operations in the terminal. Duty Free will manage three duty-free shops, and McDonald's will manage its restaurants, and the joint venture will choose other concession operators.

Dyan Cutro of Duty Free said the company was "conservatively" estimating the three duty-free stores' sales at $10 million a year.

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