DDF Executive Vice Chairman & CEO Colm McLoughlin (centre) with Ramesh Cidambi (right), COO, and Salah Tahlak, Joint-COO during the Dubai Duty Free 40th Anniversary. Image Credit: DDF

Dubai: After 55 years in the travel retail industry and 41 at the helm of Dubai Duty Free, Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman & CEO has announced that he is stepping down from his role on May 31, 2024.

McLoughlin will maintain an advisory role, attend sponsored sporting events, and remain Chairman of the Dubai Duty Free Foundation.

Effective June 1, 2024, Ramesh Cidambi, the current COO of Dubai Duty Free, will become Managing Director, reporting directly to Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman of Dubai Duty Free.

Salah Tahlak, the current Joint COO, will become Deputy Managing Director.

Commenting on the announcement, McLoughlin noted, "I am pleased to announce my retirement and want to extend my sincere thanks to all of our management and staff who have supported me so well. A huge thanks of course to our Chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who has been a wonderful boss to me for all these years and who I know will give the same level of support to my successor."

McLoughlin added, "Longevity is a key factor in the success of Dubai Duty Free, and both Ramesh and Salah are great examples of this. I am confident that Dubai Duty Free will continue to grow and I see a very bright future for the operation."

Ramesh Cidambi joined Dubai Duty Free in 1987. He stepped into the role of COO in 2016 following the retirement of George Horan 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.

Commenting on the new role, Cidambi said, "I want to thank our Chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum and our Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Colm McLoughlin, for this appointment. Colm is a legendary figure in our industry and has been a fantastic role model for me and our entire team. I wish him and his wife, Breeda, a very happy retirement.

Cidambi added, "I look forward to this next chapter of my career and working with the team to continue driving the business across our retail and leisure divisions."

Salah Tahlak joined the airport retailer in 1992 and was one of the first Emiratis and US graduates to join the organization. In 2016, Salah became Executive Vice President for Corporate Services, responsible for Marketing, IT, Logistics, and Corporate Security. In 2022, Salah was appointed Joint COO.

Commenting on his new appointment, Salah said, "I have had a long and rewarding career with Dubai Duty Free, and I want to thank our Chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, and of course Colm McLoughlin, for this new opportunity. Colm has been like a father figure to me over the years, and I have learnt so much from him. I wish him, Breeda, and the whole McLoughlin family many happy years of retirement."

Colm McLoughlin was a member of the original consultancy team, which the Dubai Government contracted to launch the new duty-free operation in 1983. Reporting to then Director General, Mohi-Din BinHendi, Colm remained in Dubai as General Manager of the new operation, becoming Managing Director in 2011. Colm was later named Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free and its subsidiary businesses, which include The Irish Village restaurants, The Century Village, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium and the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel.

Under his leadership, Dubai Duty Free has grown dramatically over the past four decades, from $20 million (1984) to $2.16 billion (2023).