Dubai: Colm McLoughlin, executive vice-chairman and chief executive officer of Dubai Duty Free (DDF), had a chance encounter last month with the granddaughter of a 1993 luxury car winner in the DDF lucky draw. But what is so special about such a meeting, you may ask?
Well, this meeting opened a flood of memories for McLoughlin. It was also a case in point of how DDF has made a positive impact on the lives of so many people around the globe since its launch.
It was the inaugural Past Captain’s Salver on December 17 at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club. McLoughlin was attending the event that was being held to honour past captains of the club. He and his wife happened to be seated at the same table with a young German expat, Vivien Veljović (24), who was interning at the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club. As she started interacting with the couple, Veljovi — who is studying leisure and events management and doing a six-month internship at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club in Dubai — revealed that her maternal grandfather, Gerhard Wolff, now based in Germany, was the winner of a luxury car in Dubai, way back in 1993.
During the event itself, Veljovi called her grandfather and told him to send her some pictures of the car he had won, so that she could show it to McLoughlin. The photos included a shot of the winning car and Veljovi’s uncle who was a toddler at the time. There was also a photo of the original letter signed by McLoughlin, informing Wolff about his win.
A world of memories unfolded, leaving McLoughlin and Veljovi’s family emotional.
“Yes, meeting Vivien did rehash old memories of previous winners over the years and reminded me of how much both the Millennium Millionaire and Finest Surprise promotions have meant to people and their families, including Vivien’s grandfather who took great pride in winning a Mercedes Benz back in 1993,” said McLoughlin.
Story of Gerhard Wolff
Veljovi said that her grandfather had won a Mercedes Benz 500 SL (beryl metallic) car in August 1993 and the win changed the financial situation of the family.
Speaking to Gulf News, Veljovi’s mother Jennifer said it was a life-changing moment when her father won the car.
Jennifer recalled Wolff was a frequent visitor to Dubai since 1981. “He was friends with the Dubai National Parachuting team as he was a parachutist himself,” she said. “Back in 1972, the UAE national parachute team went to Germany. At the time, the British army used to have a huge camp in Germany. The UAE national team was invited to perform at a competition in Germany. They came in their kandouras and impressed everyone with their amazing parachuting skills.”
She said her father became interested in the region and the UAE national team. “Every year, the team would come to Germany. My father would invite them to our hometown, Paderborn, located close to West Germany. He would pick them up from Dusseldorf airport and in the evenings would drop them back. And our friendship grew.”
She added: “In 1981, the UAE national parachute team decided to invite us to Dubai. That was when we made our first visit to the UAE. We landed in Sharjah. My mother was very nervous. We were all travelling to the Middle East for the first time ever. But the moment we landed here, we fell in love with the place.”
Jennifer said she felt a special connection with the UAE, immediately after landing.
Since 1981, the Wolff family has travelled to Dubai several times. “Whenever my parents could not join, I would travel on my own,” she said.
Buying the DDF raffle
In 1983, during one such trip, her father Gerhard bought himself a DDF raffle draw. On arrival, at Dubai International Airport, he saw the Mercedes Benz car displayed in Dubai Duty Free. “It was my mother’s favourite car, so he bought the raffle ticket. He touched it, kissed it and bought the raffle ticket. He filled out the details and apparently folded it in 10 different ways till the ticket was thick. Until this day, he believes that was the reason he won.”
Two weeks later, Wolff received a call from Dubai Duty Free, informing him that he had won the car.
“When we got a call from DDF, at first, my father hung up on the caller. He thought it was a prank. But the call came again and this time, the caller convinced my father that he had indeed won the luxury car,” Jennifer said.
How the car is still reaping benefits for Wolff
A week after winning the raffle, Wolff sold the car and invested the proceeds in his warehouse, which he had turned into a residential home. “The house is leased out. So even today, the car he won back in 1983 is giving him monetary benefits.”
Jennifer and her family, along with Veljovi, moved to Dubai in 2002. “It was my dream come true. My childhood was spent holidaying in the UAE, making friends with Emirati families, learning about their cultures. It was natural that I wanted to live here. My husband made it possible for me,” Jennifer said.