2013 Celtic Ball Honorees
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$1.6 billion in 2012. Employing over 5,700 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 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.
Under Colm’s direction, Dubai Duty Free has become a retailing giant and the recipient of some 250 industry awards. During the course of his career in the duty free industry, Colm himself has been honored with several personal awards including the Frontier 'Lifetime Achievement Award', the 'Galway Millennium Man of the Year', the 'Most Distinguished Employee Award' from the Dubai Government Excellence Awards and the 'Businessman of the Year' from the Middle East Business Awards.
In April 2012, Colm was also honoured with the ‘DFNI 25th Anniversary Lifetime Achievement in Duty Free Award’ by Duty Free News International. In October, he was given the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by the Asian Confederation of Businesses held in Dubai at the 2nd Asian Leadership Award. In November, he was also presented with the Esquire Magazine’s ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for his outstanding contribution to the travel retail industry.
Colm is married to Breeda, and with three adult children and two grandchildren. His son lives in Dubai while his two daughters and grandchildren live in the UK.
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. He also holds a private pilot’s license for light aircraft.