A tribute to TFI chairman Peter Franks

TFI agency chairman and founder Peter Franks passed away on 27 December following a short illness.

The agency board statement said: “Peter will be hugely missed by the agency’s staff and a wide circle of international friends and acquaintances. He was kind, a humanitarian, a polymath and a hugely enthusiastic person who had an undiminished passion for the events industry of which, of course, he was one of the founding fathers.”

CN asked Peter’s TFI colleague Simon Maier, to comment more fully on Peter’s long and distinguished career. This is his tribute:

“Peter had travel and events in his blood. He actually started working in the travel industry very early on in life – in luggage haulage at Gatwick Airport when he left school – and before Bournemouth University where he studied Business and Tourism. In the 1970s he travelled extensively and worked throughout the world mostly in travel itself, not least as a travel rep in Austria and Lichtenstein for a number of years – mostly within the drinks industry, about which many an amusing tale still delighted both him and any listener. He had a spell in marketing at British Caledonian airlines, following which he tried his hand at various start-ups eventually gaining traction with Travel For Industry in 1981 when the events industry was very new to the UK.

“The early TFI was very different from the current TFI Group focusing almost exclusively originally on travel, although it was often even then seen as an innovator in the industry – an early player in the incentive travel market in the 1980s and in the 1990s, producing high profile events like the MTV music awards – and thereon picking up a myriad of industry awards for big clients such as Zanussi and Philips. It was at this time that Peter really saw the huge benefit of (and future in) face-to-face communication, something in which he always believed passionately as he did the international nature of events for blue chip companies.

“In 1989 Peter sold TFI to a consortium in order to concentrate on freelance high level strategy and marketing consultancy, but then returned to TFI in 1994 as chairman and also as the major shareholder determined to recreate the company as an event-related marketing services business which became the TFI Group.

“From then on he fervently believed in increased co-operation between the various members of the distribution chain within event management and in bringing a more marketing-led approach to our industry. In 1996 TFI took a majority share in TFI Quest – a company supplying ‘money can’t buy’ adventures to corporate incentive prizewinners.

“In 1998 TFI took on a majority shareholding in events.com, a company specialising in events for the I.T. industry and in 2004 TFI bought the majority shareholding in Meeting Point Conferences (Europe), a long established PCO. In the same year TFI also took on a minority shareholding in production company Lodestar.

“Peter led the business through thick and some thin for over 30 years during many difficult periods of recession and change, each challenge of which he met with determination and zeal. He was a founder member of one of the then biggest industry associations, ITMA UK, which became Eventia at which he was a director and then vice-chairman for 13 consecutive years which, along with the IVCA, was the precursor to EVCOM.

“He served on various advisory boards having been appointed, for example, in 2003 as a member of the Conseil Consultatif International Maison de la France. Peter was also involved with the International Institute for Peace through Tourism, believing that commerce in its broadest sense was and indeed is both a powerful force and a necessary requisite for achieving peace in war-torn parts of what he saw as the global village.

“Peter was a charismatic leader, a philosopher, an excellent singer, linguist, a man who upheld strong principles, a man who knew opera of all brands inside out and one who understood popular culture as well as the power of rhetoric and a man who had an incisive wit as well as an all-embracing smile. Above all, he was known for his sheer kindness to people and would often go out of his way to be hugely supportive to those who really needed it.

“He built a business which grew from a reactive event management company to a proactive event agency, specialising in association, pharma and corporate events and offering a wide range of in-house skills, an agency with a worldwide footprint. Peter was an admirer and early adopter of technology that benefitted audience engagement, and it was this phrase ‘audience engagement’ which he preached wholeheartedly as being the raison d’être of any event.”

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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