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For the silver mineral, see Samsonite (mineral).
Samsonite International S.A.
Type Société Anonyme
Traded as SEHK1910
Industry Luggage - Suitcases - Bags - Backpacks - Travel Accessories - Protective Mobile Device Cases
Founded Denver, Colorado, USA 10th of March 1910 (10th of March 1910)
Founders Jesse Shwayder
Area served Worldwide
Key people

Timothy Charles Parker, President

Dr. Ramesh Tainwala, CEO
Employees 8,864 employees (2014)

Samsonite International S.A. (SEHK1910) is an American multinational luggage manufacturer and retailer, with products ranging from large suitcases to small toiletries bags and briefcases. It was founded in Denver, Colorado in 1910 by Jesse Shwayder. Shwayder named one of his initial cases Samson, after the Biblical strongman, and began using the trademark Samsonite in 1941. The company changed its name to Samsonite in 1966.

The company's registered office is in Luxembourg and it is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.[1]


The company was founded in Denver, Colorado, USA in 1910 by Jesse Shwayder, a luggage salesman, as the Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company.[2] A religious man, Shwayder named one of his initial cases Samson, after the Biblical strongman, and began using the trademark Samsonite in 1941.[2] The company changed its name to Samsonite in 1966. For many years, a subsidiary, Samsonite Furniture Co., made folding chairs and card tables in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Beginning in 1961, Samsonite manufactured and distributed Lego building toys for the North American market under license from the Danish parent firm. A licensing dispute ended the arrangement in the U.S. in 1972, but Samsonite remained the distributor in Canada until 1986. Albert H. Reckler, then head of Military and export sales for the luggage division, brought the idea of manufacturing and selling Lego in the U.S. to Samsonite. He and Stan A. Clamage were instrumental in establishing the Lego brand in the United States. This was part of an overall company expansion into toy manufacturing[3] in the 1960s that was abandoned in the 1970s. The Shwayder family sold the company to Beatrice Foods in 1973.

Samsonite, Man Yee Building, Des Voeux Road Central, Hong Kong

The Denver factory, which employed 4,000 at its peak, closed in May 2001. Samsonite headquarters moved from Denver to Mansfield, Massachusetts, USA after a change of ownership in May 2005. CVC Capital Partners Ltd. in July 2007 became Samsonite's fifth owner in 21 years.[4][5]

Samsonite moved its US marketing and sales offices from 91 Main Street in Warren, Rhode Island, to Mansfield, Massachusetts effective September 1, 2005. Samsonite had offices in Taif for 13 years. The building was decorated with an inflatable gorilla three stories tall, which remained along with a Samsonite retail shop at the Main Street building.[6] The gorilla was the American Tourister company mascot following a 1969 advertising campaign.

In 2005 the company brought on Marcello Bottoli, former chief executive of Louis Vuitton as president and CEO, to pull them out of a long slump.[7] Bottoli left the company in 2009.[8]

In July 2007, finance investor CVC Capital Partners took over Samsonite for $1.7 billion.[9]

On September 2, 2009, Samsonite Company Store LLC (U.S. Retail Division), formally known as Swainsonite Company Stores Inc, filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. It planned to close up to 50% of its stores and discontinue the "Black Label" brand in the United States.[10][11]

In June 2011, Samsonsite raised US$1.25 billion in an initial public offering in Hong Kong.[12]

In 2013 it announced plans to sell luggage for $50 in emerging markets such as India.[13]

Iconic advertising campaign[edit]

In the early half of the 1900s, Samsonite promoted its hard-shell luggage by emphasizing its durability with taglines such as "Strong Enough to Stand On." Samsonite is identified with a 1970s advertising campaign that actually was for American Tourister, a brand which Samsonite did not acquire until 1993. Current advertisements use the gorilla motif and Jurassic Park dinosaurs: "American Tourister: Tough luggage for a tough world."[14]

In the American Tourister 1970 television ad, the "gorilla" (actually an actor in a chimpanzee suit) pounds a bright-red American Tourister case, throws it around a cage, jumps on it, and finally drags it out the back door. It lasted 15 years,[15] and is cited as an example of "branding." The 1969 advertisement was by Roy Grace, who also made the Alka-Seltzer ad "Mama Mia! That's a spicy meatball!" campaign.[16] Ad Age names the gorilla ad one of the top one hundred advertising campaigns of the 20th century.[17] The gorilla campaign was reprised with three new advertisements between 1980 to 1983[15] and again with a gorilla-dinosaur-suitcase vignette capitalizing the 1993 film Jurassic Park, which combined costumes, CGI and animatronics.[14]


Forty percent of all Samsonite hard luggage is manufactured at its plant in Nashik, India.[18]



  1. ^ "2011 Annual Report". Samsonite International S.A. Archived from the original on March 4, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Barreto, Elzio (June 10, 2011). "Samsonite HK IPO bags $1.25 billion after pricing at bottom". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  3. ^ Toys catalogue (photo gallery), Samsonite, 1972 .
  4. ^ Clothier, Mark (July 5, 2007), Samsonite Sold to Buyout Firm, Denver Post (Bloomberg News) .
  5. ^ Clothier, Mark (July 6, 2007), Luggage Maker Packs up Sale Deal, Denver Post (Bloomberg News) .
  6. ^ "Samsonite relocates operations to Mansfield, Mass." May 25, 2005. Warren Times. Retrieved January 2, 2007.
  7. ^ Meredith, Robyn (June 20, 2005). "Sleeker Samsonite". Forbes. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  8. ^ "Marcello Bottoli". "People". Forbes (profile). 
  9. ^ "Samsonite to Be Sold". The New York Times. July 6, 2007. 
  10. ^ "Samsonite". Samsonite company stores. September 2, 2009. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  11. ^ "Samsonite retail unit files for bankruptcy". Reuters. September 2, 2009. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  12. ^ "Samsonite I.P.O. Raises $1.25 Billion". The New York Times. June 10, 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-03. 
  13. ^ Samsonite goes beyond metros with project Pappu, Forbes (IN) .
  14. ^ a b Movie clip of gorilla & dinosaur campaign undated clip at Anatomorphex costume-makers site; 1999 date located for clip elsewhere on site. Retrieved January 2, 2007.
  15. ^ a b "American Tourister Gorilla" at TV Acres television history website. Retrieved January 2, 2007.
  16. ^ Obituary: Roy Grace Jan/Feb 2004 edition of Graphis magazine, accessed January 2, 2007, via FindArticles.Com.
  17. ^ "Top 100 Advertising Campaigns of the Twentieth Century" 1999, Ad Age magazine. Retrieved January 2, 2007.
  18. ^ "After shoes, Samsonite plans watches, eyewear". The Hindu Business Line. September 18, 2008. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  19. ^

External links[edit]