Dubai Duty Free CEO Colm McLoughlin to step down after 41 years

The 80-year-old arrived as a consultant from Aer Rianta, the Irish Airport Authority, which was contracted to launch the new duty free operation in 1983

Colm McLoughlin, centre, is stepping down as Dubai Duty Free chief executive. Ramesh Cidambi, right, becomes the new managing director, while Salah Tahlak, left, will be deputy managing director. Photo: Dubai Duty Free
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The chief executive of Dubai Duty Free, Colm McLoughlin, 80, has announced that he will be stepping down from the post on May 31.

Mr McLoughlin, who is also executive vice chairman, is leaving after 41 years at the helm of the company.

He was instrumental in DDF's rise to become the single-largest duty free operation in the world.

He will maintain an advisory role and attend sponsored sporting events, in addition to remaining as chairman of the DDF foundation.

Ramesh Cidambi, the chief operating officer, will become managing director from June 1.

He will report directly to Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, president of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and chairman of DDF.

Salah Tahlak, the current joint COO, will become deputy managing director.

"Longevity is a key factor in the success of Dubai Duty Free … I am confident that Dubai Duty Free will continue to grow and I see a very bright future for the operation," Mr McLoughlin said.

Under his leadership, DDF’s business grew from $20 million in 1984 to $2.16 billion last year.

He was a member of the original consultancy team from Aer Rianta, the Irish Airport Authority, which was contracted by the Dubai Government to launch the new duty free operation in 1983.

In 2023, sales jumped by about a quarter, to hit a record high of nearly Dh7.9 billion ($2.16 billion), reaching DDF's target for the year, underpinned by continued growth in passenger traffic and booming activity in December.

The company reported more than 20 million sales transactions throughout last year, which is an average of almost 55,000 transactions daily, with about 55.2 million units of merchandise sold.

The retailer said sales in December – when it marked its 40th anniversary – rose about 8.4 per cent year-on-year to a monthly record of Dh807.6 million, aided by a special sale on December 20 that generated Dh54.1 million in just 24 hours.

Mr Cidambi, who joined the company in 1987, became head of the information technology division before taking on other senior positions across logistics, retail development and leisure divisions.

He became COO in 2016 and has been responsible for all aspects of the company's operation, overseeing major retail projects at Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport.

Updated: May 08, 2024, 5:55 PM