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With immense sadness, I read the news today from my old title Duty-Free News International that its co-Founder Vivian Raven has passed away.
Vivian was in every way the father of the travel retail publishing industry. Without him a number of leading publishers, editors and journalists would not have enjoyed their success in this business. I count myself among that list, as well as my former boss Julian Fox (who co-founded Raven Fox and Duty-Free News International with Vivian); Doug Newhouse (a key figure, also there from the title’s beginning); Amanda Felix (who started as Vivian’s secretary and later became Publisher) and Nigel Hardy (a former Raven Fox sales director and now Travel Retail Business co-owner).
After serving in the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, Vivian turned to journalism, later becoming Editor of a trade magazine called World Tobacco. While there he recognised the emergence of the duty free sector as a global sales channel in its own right and spotted a gap in the publishing market. Not only did he persuade his publisher to launch a specialist title – International Tax-Free Trader – in 1972 but he also masterminded the newly identified industry’s first international exhibition, held in Amsterdam the same year. That event ran successfully, and hugely profitably, until 1984, when it was superseded via the ‘by the trade, for the trade’ Tax Free World Exhibition.
It was a devastating blow, which he ultimately paid for with the loss of his job. But in 1987, he bounced back in style by forming Raven Fox with Julian. The two of them and Doug Newhouse launched Duty-Free News International, with Roy Downes, Carol Fox and Amanda Felix in key support roles. I joined a year later. The two-weekly title went from a start-up to market leader in quick-fire time, growing into one of the UK’s most respected and profitable titles in the 1990s.
I worked for Vivian and Julian until 1996 when they sold the business to Euromoney. I was “the succession plan”, stepping up from my role as Editor to become Managing Director under the new owners. Any success I have had since is down as much to Vivian’s, Julian’s and Doug’s support back then as my own luck or hard work since.
Vivian was a wonderful boss, supportive, flamboyant, funny, warm and generous. He was commercially astute and knew where his strengths – and those of others – lay. He would take the team out to dinner regularly and never scrimp on costs. The team celebration dinners on the Friday night of the Cannes show were legendary. I spent a lot of time in Brighton at the house he shared with his first wife Susan (who tragically passed away during a supposedly routine hospital procedure) and his kindness, hospitality and mentorship during a difficult period in my life will live with me forever.
Having sold the company, Vivian retired to enjoy his family and indulge his passion for sailing. Sadly, he was soon afflicted by Huntington’s Disease, a ravaging illness that eventually overcame him.
Along with all his former team I will mourn Vivian deeply and remember him fondly. He had many enduring friendships with people in the industry (notably Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO Colm McLoughlin who visited him regularly right up to his passing). They too will be very sad on hearing this news.
Vivian made us all smile. He had an effervescence, a fruity ebullience; a constant warmth; a wonderful gregariousness. We respected him. We were all part of something special at Duty-Free News International and for that I will be forever thankful to the man who fathered it all.