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Colm McLoughlin

In 2017, The Honorary Doctorate was awarded to: Colm McLoughlin - Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dubai Duty Free 


Colm McLoughlin

Colm McLoughlin was born in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway, Ireland in 1943 and is one of five, with two elder brothers and two younger sisters. He attended the village Boy’s National School and Garbally College, where he excelled in sport including hurling and tennis and went on to play rugby for Co. Galway.

Colm began his retailing career in London in the 1960’s working for the popular high-street chain of Woolworths, before moving back to Ireland to work for Shannon Duty Free. As General Manager of Shannon Duty Free, Colm was one of a team of ten from Aer Rianta (the Irish Airport Authority) who moved to Dubai in 1983 at the request of the Dubai Government, to set up Dubai Duty Free.

Following the successful opening of Dubai Duty Free in 1983, Colm was asked to remain as General Manager of the start-up operation, which in its opening year had a turnover of US$20 million. Colm later became the Managing Director of Dubai Duty Free, which is one of the leading airport retailers in the world with sales turnover of US$1.85 billion in 2016. Employing almost 6,000 staff, Dubai Duty Free is widely regarded for having set the benchmark for the duty free industry in the region.

In July 2011, Colm was named Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free and its subsidiary businesses, which include The Irish Village, The Century Village and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, home to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Colm’s remit also includes the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, which is owned and developed by Dubai Duty Free and is managed by the Jumeirah Group.

In July 2012, Dubai Duty Free successfully raised a US$1.75 billion loan facility to finance the expansion plans at Dubai International Airport. The facility received strong support from a syndicate of 26 international, regional and local banks. In 2013, a further facility for US$750 million was raised.

Under Colm’s direction, Dubai Duty Free has become a retailing giant with annual sales turnover of US$1.85 billion in 2016 and is a recipient of over 550 industry awards presented by international, regional and local entities, which bear testimony to its retail success.

On a personal level, Colm McLoughlin has received many top awards which reflect his outstanding leadership qualities. These include the Frontier Lifetime Achievement award which was presented to Colm in 2004 by Frontier magazine, making him only the second person after Dr. Brendan O’ Regan, the founder of the duty free industry, to receive this accolade. In 2000, Colm was the first non-UAE National at the time to receive the Most Distinguished Employee Award from the Dubai Government Excellence Awards. More recently, in October 2014 Colm was presented with the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for Business and Education category, making him one of a select group of people, and the first Irish person living in the UAE to be recognised by the Irish government for his outstanding contribution to Irish business and communities abroad.

A keen philanthropist, Colm established the Dubai Duty Free Foundation in 2004 and since then has supported 37 local and 51 overseas charities including Hand in Hand for Haiti, The Moodie Report Great Travel Retail Educathlon, Smile Train and the construction of 32 houses in the DDF GK Village, located in the province of Leyte, Philippines.

A single handicap golfer, Colm is the former Captain of the two golf courses in Dubai: the Emirates Golf Club (1995/1996) and the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club (2007). He is the only person to have held both captaincies. A keen squash player, Colm also holds a private pilot’s license for light aircraft.

Colm is married to Breeda, and has three adult children and two grandchildren. His son lives in Dubai while his two daughters and grandchildren live in the UK.

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