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There are two stories I did not want to write this year. The second (completely unrelated to this one) will come after next Monday. Many readers know what I am talking about. But, alas, write them I must.
For now, let me deal only with the first. Today we announced the forthcoming departure of Deputy Chairman Dermot Davitt (above) to pursue other opportunities at the end of April.
Here I want to talk about the opportunities he not only pursued alongside me but the many he created. Dermot, the Galway-based Dublin boy, has been my constant companion in publishing since 1996 when I somehow selected him out of a range of 100 applicants (all the others based in England; he was living in Ireland. He told me he had worked with Guinness – I hadn’t realised he meant holding it…) for a graduate trainee role at Duty-Free News International (DFNI), where I had just been promoted to Managing Director.
I fast-tracked him to Editor within months and he’s never looked back since. When I left DFNI to set up The Moodie Report in 2002 it was difficult. From colleagues and companions we became competitors – he a very good and tough one, surrounded by very good people. I may be one of the most competitive people on the planet. It strained our friendship but never broke it. I always wanted him to join our fledgling team and in 2006 that opportunity arose when he opted to move to Galway with his wife Michelle, also a DFNI employee.
[At the Moodie International Superstars Honorary Invitation Tournament, the ‘MIS-HIT’, in Cannes in 2013]
[Driving Mr Dazy: A relaxed moment post The Trinity Forum 2014 in Taipei]
The location meant he could only work as a freelancer for that title. But with the Moodie ‘virtual’ model, he could do far more. And so I offered him leadership of our then fledgling print division (then just a quarterly, now six annually plus regular supplements, trade association titles and corporate publications).
To say he has been a success in the role is a serious understatement. Our print title quickly became the market leader to top off our considerable digital leadership and has since gone from strength to strength. To say he has achieved much else besides, in his trademark professional, affable, courteous, funny, generous, charming, whole-hearted style, is just the tip of a eulogy that runs much deeper. Of course too many of us leave our eulogies till people are gone. Dermot (he’ll be relieved to know this) is still very much with us and certain, I know, to make a success of his next venture.
As I struggled for life through late 2010 and early 2011, Dermot just stepped up. He edited a DFS 50th anniversary corporate book through the night during the Cannes show while fulfilling all his day and evening responsibilities, maintaining our web coverage and somehow remaining a controlled, considerate human being while coping with a multitude of pressures that would have made lesser people snap, while I lay in recovery from my operation. I never had to worry about my company and I cannot tell you how reassuring that was during the darkest days of my life. Equally when I was carted off to a Bangkok Hospital just after the start of my ‘come-back’ Trinity conference in 2011, Dermot simply took over the reins.
It’s been such a pleasure to watch his development over the past 19 years into an outstanding journalist; a superbly discerning editor; a best-in-class conference moderator (I dubbed him ‘the housewives’ favourite’ after the moniker given to Eamonn Holmes, the Irish host of various UK chat shows).
Dermot is outstandingly popular both internally and externally. His loyalty is second to none. His calm is the perfect foil to my more mercurial nature. But in our shared values, commitment, work ethic and love of the business we are very much alike.
Of course there have been mistakes along the way. The biggest was teaching him to play golf when we both lived in London. Within months he was thrashing me, hitting the ball down the middle, consistent, measured, steady. I, irrationally. ambitiously and always unsuccessfully attempting to hit over lakes 200 yards away (well, even 20 yards away was a challenge), yipping chips and putts, over-excited, occasionally irascible. Golf mirroring life.
By 2013 he was winning the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup. I still remember all of us in the London office gathered around my cell phone as text after text came through from fellow players that Dermot might have won it. And he did! The Dublin boy did good!! There was uproar in the office and in Dubai. It’s fair to say he, now redubbed ‘Dermot Divot’, was the most popular winner ever. A mark of the man.
[Dermot with Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman Colm McLoughlin, left, and President George Horan on his big day of sporting triumph in 2013]
As Dermot embarks on the next stage of his life journey I shall soldier on. How very, very strange it will be not to see my calm Lieutenant there, reassuringly, in my slipstream.
And so we beat on, boats against the current, born back ceaselessly into the past. – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby