Duty paid

There is nothing duty free about being founder and president of the Tax Free World Association. Christian Davis meets Erik Juul-Mortensen


EVERY OCTOBER the Tax Free World Association holds its World Exhibition & Conference, best known as TFWA Cannes, or just ‘Cannes’. Along with the litany of famous speakers at the opening day conference – which has included the likes of Kofi Annan, General Colin Powell and former New York mayor at the time of 9/11, Rudy Giuliani – the audience awaits the state-of-the-nation address from the organisation’s president, Erik Juul-Mortensen.

The Dane is a consummate speaker and always delivers an authoritative speech, not afraid to shoot from the hip rather than gloss things over to make exhibitors and visitors feel the future is rosy. He was a founder of the association with seven others back in 1984/85. As an aside, it turns out Drinks International played an important role in both JM’s professional and personal life. A DI ad rep visited him around 1982/83 but he “sent her flying” (he did later buy a front cover ad). As he was forming the association, he appointed that rep and she not only became the TFWA’s commercial director but also his second wife. Sarah Branquinho now works for World Duty Free. They have two sons and a daughter.

His career includes senior positions at Danish Distillers, maker of Aalborg akvavit and bitters brand Gammel Dansk. The company was taken over by then owner of Absolut Sweden’s Vin & Sprit. He ended up president of V&S Absolut Global Duty Free and managing director of V&S Deutschland, before heading off to head up Maxxium GTR.

During this time he was instrumental in founding TFWA and became its president in 1999. He is also on the managing and supervisory boards of the European Travel Retail Confederation; board member of the Middle East & Africa Duty Free Association and the Asia Pacific Travel Retail Association; and founding member and board member of the Duty Free World Council.


At 68, he has no immediate plans to retire. But Juul-Mortensen is at pains to stress that the presidency is a one-year term, while the management committee runs for two years. He tells Drinks International that the day he wakes up and does not want to do it any more or someone “tips him the wink” that it is time to move on, he will go happily and never attend the Cannes show again. As to a successor, he is “working on that”.

Keenly aware of the future relevance and effectiveness of the association, Juul-Mortensen instigated a strategic review conducted by Kurt Salmon, global management and strategy consultancy. “It is very important for us. Unless we deliver the expectations of the industry, we should do something else. We are an association based on brands. We have to be at the forefront of things,” says J-M.

While the TFWA has its offices in Paris, J-M, when he is not travelling, works from home in England, a short drive from Heathrow. He lists his hobbies as walking, reading and cycling. He cycled competitively as a young man and tries to cycle, usually in Windsor Great Park, every day.