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TFI Group mourns death of founder Peter Franks

TFI Group managing board reports that Franks passed away on Sunday 27 December following a short illness

Pictured: Peter Franks

TFI Group chairman and founder Peter Franks has died.

The TFI Group managing board reported that Franks passed away on Sunday 27 December following a short illness.

In a statement, the board said, "Peter will be hugely missed by the agency's staff and a wide circle of international friends and acquaintances. He was fun, kind, a humanitarian, a polymath and a hugely enthusiastic person who had an undiminished passion for the events industry of which, of course, he was one of the founding fathers."

TFI Group director Simon Maier said: “It was a shock, it happened very quickly. He was only taken ill in July. The staff are shocked, and clients as well. It will take some getting over, but we will.”

Maier added that there are plans to organise a celebration of Franks’ life, with a date set provisionally for mid-March.

Franks started his career in travel and events hauling luggage at Gatwick Airport when he left school, before going on to study business and tourism at Bournemouth University. 

In the 1970s he travelled extensively, working as a travel rep in Austria and Liechtenstein, as well as a spell in marketing at British Caledonian Airlines.

Franks founded Travel For Industry, the company that was to become TFI Group, in 1981. In its formative years, TFI focused almost exclusively on travel, and was an early player in the incentive travel market in the 1980s. TFI also produced high profile events like the MTV Music Awards and worked with big clients such as Zanussi and Philips.

In 1989, Franks sold TFI to a consortium in order to concentrate on freelance high level strategy and marketing consultancy. However, he returned to the firm in 1994 as chairman and major shareholder and set about recreating the company as an event-related marketing services business, which became the TFI Group. 

Franks believed in increased cooperation between the various members of the distribution chain within event management and in bringing a more marketing-led approach to the industry.

The next ten years saw the company expand, as TFI took majority shares in incentive company TFI Quest, IT events firm and professional conference organiser Meeting Point. In 2004 TFI also took on a minority shareholding in production company Lodestar.

Franks was a founder member of industry association ITMA UK, eventually to become EVCOM, at which he was a director and then vice chairman for 13 consecutive years.

He also served on various advisory boards, including the Conseil Consultatif International Maison de la France, to which he was appointed in 2003. His involvement in the International Institute for Peace through Tourism stemmed from his belief that commerce in its broadest sense was and is both a powerful force and a necessary requisite for achieving peace in wartorn parts of what he saw as the global village.

Maier said: “Peter led the business through thick and some thin for over 30 years during many difficult periods of recession and change, each challenge of which he met with determination and zeal. 

“Peter was a charismatic leader, a philosopher, an excellent singer, a man who upheld strong principles, knew opera of all brands inside out, understood popular culture and the power of rhetoric and a man who had an incisive wit as well as an all-embracing smile. 

“Above all, he was known for his sheer kindness to people and would often go out of his way to be hugely supportive to those who really needed care. 

“He built a business which grew from a reactive event management company to a proactive event agency, specialising in association, pharma and corporate events and offering a wide range of in-house skills. Peter was an admirer and early adopter of technology that benefited audience engagement and it was this phrase ‘audience engagement’ which he preached wholeheartedly as being the raison d'être of any event.”

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