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For many years at the Singapore show, a unique lunch would take place at the Conrad Hotel’s Golden Peony restaurant. The lunch would celebrate not only business between partners but also the spirit that underpinned it.
The host extraordinaire was Lars Johansson, the founder of Imagination Unlimited International, and a man synonymous with the extraordinary success of Inniskillin in the travel retail channel.
Together with his trusty Korean agent, Brandepot owner Won Kim, Lars would host the Korean Air duty free team led by Senior Vice President, Catering & In-Flight Sales Business Division Heather Cho. I was always privileged to be asked to join the party.
The 2009 gathering was fated to be our last. As most readers will know, Lars passed away tragically at last October’s TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes, robbing the industry of one of its warmest, most-loved figures and his family of a husband and father.
This year in Singapore the lunch slot was held but the cast (below) was poignantly different. Heather Cho was there. So was Won Kim. And me.
But instead of Inniskillin and Lars our host was Sandro Bottega, owner of Italian grappa-to-wine company Distilleria Bottega. Sandro is one of the industry’s most charismatic characters and, more importantly, was a very special friend of Lars and his wife Beverly.
Once again then, fine glasses of wine (this time from Bottega) were raised to partnership in business and to the continued success of Korean Air, the world’s leading inflight retailer. But a very special additional toast was also held. To Lars. He would have liked that.
[A poignant reminder of Lars, hosting an earlier lunch in Singapore, before his tragic passing last year].