David Mandie passes away

August 18, 2011 by  
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The duty free and travel retail industry has lost one of its truly great figures and pioneers with the sad passing of James Richardson (JR) Group Chairman and Managing Director, David Mandie. 

In a joint statement, CEO Milton Lasnitzki and Chairman Duty Free Garry Stock said: “It is with the greatest regret we advise that our Chairman and Managing Director, David Mandie AM, OBE, passed away this morning. Mr Mandie had recently celebrated his 93rd birthday and until his recent illness, attended the office every day.

David Mandie

“Mr Mandie has long been regarded as the pioneer of the duty free industry within Australia and together with his push into the contract furniture market established a business we are so proud to be part of today. As an employer he was highly regarded and was a friend, mentor and inspiration to so many throughout the years.

“He will long be remembered for his service to the business and wider community, his wide-ranging philanthropic support of health, sport and the arts. He will be greatly missed.

“I know you will join us in offering our deepest sympathy to [daughter and JR Group Director] Evelyn Danos and her family on the loss of this remarkable man who was loved by all.

“As a mark of respect, we will be closing our offices in Australia, New Zealand and Israel on the day of the funeral. All James Richardson and JR/Duty Free stores will remain open.”

COMMENT: This is such a sad day for the extended Mandie family, for the James Richardson Group and for the duty free and travel retail industry, writes Martin Moodie.

‘Pioneer’ is a sometimes over-used term in industry. But in David Mandie’s case it sums up perfectly the man, his vision and his achievements. He was not a man who made the industry headlines, always adopting a low key presence in media terms. But the respect in which he was held was immense.

David Mandie drove the creation of the City International Duty Free stores chain in 1973 and personally conceived and championed Australia’s docket-collection system that quickly became an integral element of the country’s off-airport (downtown) duty free industry.

Australia’s nascent off-airport channel of the early 70s soon flourished and by the early 1980s had grown to more than 100 outlets. David Mandie was the driving force behind that retail revolution.

He also spearheaded James Richardson’s emergence as an international force, beginning with Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport, Israel in 1987, a location it still runs today. According to The Moodie Report Research, the company generated sales of US$575 million in the travel retail channel last year, underlining Mr Mandie’s incredible achievement.

Born in London in 1918, he emigrated with his family to Australia in 1919, where they opened a tobacco store in Melbourne. Those were tough days and the young David Mandie had to work in the family business from the age of 13. In the 1950s his firm went into the wholesale cigarette business, specialising in imports and the family fortunes started to change.

In 1953 David bought the James Richardson wholesale liquor and tobacco business and by 1956 the company was the first Australian distributor for Rothmans. It also took on the distribution for many leading liquor brands, such as Old Parr and Cutty Sark.

This created the perfect platform for entering the duty free retail environment and the company duly won its first airport concession in Brisbane in 1972. It was the beginning of a duty free empire, airport and off-airport, that flourishes proudly today in Australia, New Zealand and Israel.

David Mandie also gave selflessly, generously and quietly to countless good causes down the years, most recently to the people of Christchurch in New Zealand (where the company operates the airport duty free concession) after that city’s catastrophic second earthquake.

He is survived by his daughter Evelyn Danos (and her husband Tom) and  sons Ian and Steven (both of whom contributed to the success of the business in earlier years).

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