Kelvyn Gardner, 66

Kelvyn Gardner, a flamboyant stalwart of the global licensing business for more than 35 years, and for 15 years the Managing Director of Licensing International UK, died suddenly at his home in Milton Keynes, UK on Monday. He had celebrated his 66th birthday on January 22.  He’s survived by his wife Michelle, daughter Regan and son Eliot.

Since leaving Licensing International last year, Kelvyn had been involved in a variety of projects within the licensing business, including starting a podcast series and reinvigorating his consultancy, Asgard Media, with a goal, he told, of bringing companies into licensing “by showing that licensing is easy to understand, economical in practice and profitable in outcome.”

Launching Merlin
Gardner and three colleagues started Merlin Publishing in 1989 to market licensed stickers and trading cards. The company grew throughout Europe and within five years had become the UK’s fastest-growing private company in 1995, before being sold to the Topps Company. He established Asgard Media in 1998.

In 2006 he became Managing Director of the UK division of LIMA, the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association – now known as Licensing International. He contributed to the judging of the UK Licensing Awards, was a vocal advocate and trustee of the industry’s charitable company, The Light Fund and regularly opened Brand Licensing Europe’s annual Licensing Academy with his ‘Introduction to Licensing’ talks. He spoke, by his own description, “good Italian, competent French and Spanish, and basic conversational Japanese.”

A unique presence
Aside from his business acumen, Kelvyn stood out in so many ways, from his wild sportcoats to his rock performances at industry events, encyclopedic knowledge of rock music, disdain for West End musicals and rugby fandom. He was a vocal advocate of the licensing business, and supported it in so many ways.

“He was as much of a worldwide, goodwill ambassador for the Licensing Industry as we’ll ever see in our lifetimes,” said Ira Friedman of Topps, who formed a firm friendship with Kelvyn when Topps bought Merlin. “He literally wrote the ‘book’ on licensing (in this case a cheeky commentary reflecting his sometimes irreverent views on the business). He was a true gentleman — without a mean bone in his body — yet fought hard until he got the deals done, fairly and squarely.

“He loved this business of ours – uncovering new brands and analyzing the many opportunities that came his way. Most of all, Kelvyn was a people person and he thrived in an industry filled with many wonderful people. I’ll miss his knowledge from so many years of experience, his kind ways, his sense of adventure, curiosity and his wit. It’s my special personal friendship with Kelvyn that I’ll miss the most.”

Said Graham Saltmarsh, who succeeded him last year as head of Licensing International UK: “It’s never easy to take over the mantle from someone, especially if that someone is Kelvyn. He was known and loved throughout the industry, as much for his extraordinary bad taste in jackets as for his depth of knowledge and love of real beer. When I was offered the role at Licensing International, the first person I called was Kelvyn, who said how pleased he was and asked how could he help. He continued to touch base and with his fantastic dry wit would give insights on the industry which were always accurate but not always repeatable! Now we must bid farewell to an industry guru, a friend and a rock God.”

Kelvyn was a regular speaker at licensing conferences all over the world, including Tokyo, New York, London, Dubai, Milan, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Paris and Seoul.

He won the Honorary Achievement Award at the 2013 UK Licensing Awards held at The Grosvenor House Hotel, London. The award celebrated Kelvyn’s dedication and service to the licensing industry over three decades.

Those who wish can get in touch with the family in writing at Pendragon House, Wicken Rd, Deanshanger, Milton Keynes MK19 6JR.

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  • Translation provided by Google Translate, please pardon any shortcomings