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David Cardwell – An Appreciation

10-11-2019

By: Kelvyn Gardner – Managing Director, Licensing International UK

With the passing of David Cardwell last week – sadly though historically/ironically during BLE 2019 – our business has lost one of the true pioneers. Speaking as someone who is often referred to as a ‘licensing veteran’, it requires no great humility on my part to loudly declare that, without David and a tiny bunch of his contemporaries, there would have been no UK licensing business for me to work in at all.

When I took my first steps in licensing at the beginning of the 1980s, I was able to do so by talking to David and his partner Richard Culley at CPLG, to Chris Patrick and John Sinfield at PSL, later joined by the likes of the Durbridges at Copyrights, the Link Licensing folks and a handful of others. David, Richard and their contemporaries created a new British business category based on some international knowledge, a little experience of UK TV broadcasting companies with their fledgling ‘merchandising’ contracts, and a whole lot of guts. It still beats me that David saw so much potential in Noddy, but he was right back then, as he was so often in the years to follow.

His company, CPL, enjoyed success and growth with many properties, among the highlights being The Mr Men and the original Teenage Mutant Hero (as they were known in the UK) Turtles. They acquired the Star Wars rights in the build-up to the ‘prequels’ and I was even for a while a CPL shareholder at that time: David and Richard were a good stock market bet as far as I was concerned.

They continued to drive innovation with their joint venture (with Merchandising Munchen), The European Licensing Group (ELG). Once again, David and Richard’s investment was the very first initiative to utilise the European Union single market – of which we hear so much today – by creating a Europe-wide licensing agency business.  The ELG was headquartered – with appropriate diplomacy given its Anglo-German ownership – in the Netherlands.  A few years later the UK partners wholly acquired ELG, which became the pan-European CPLG that we know today.

Along the way there were business deals, sales, acquisitions and mergers enough to keep CPLG in the licensing headlines. I think David especially enjoyed the perks – if not the later unfavourable headlines – of the period of ownership by the ISL sports licensing group. Handling the FIFA world cup rights meant first-class air travel and being greeted at international airports by chauffeured limousines with those little flags on each front wing sweeping David and Richard into corporate offices and glittering sports stadia without the sort of tedious security considerations that are the lot of us mere mortals.

David, as others have said, was as renowned as a determined smoker as he was a determined licensing man. It is an odd dichotomy that in David’s business life as time passed, so did the dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of people working in licensing, whilst the number of folk with whom he could have enjoy a quiet fag (cigarette, for our US readers) grew smaller and smaller. David’s legacy is a thriving British and European licensing industry. Those of us who knew him personally are fortunate indeed.

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