Obituary: Lawrence Venn

Lawrence Eustace Venn, wine publicist, born Staines 1902, Managing Director Moet & Chandon (London) 1960-66, died Malta 15 September 1992.

TO REACH the top of one's profession and be forgotten. As much as anything that was the wish of Lawrence Venn for himself. Managing Director of Moet & Chandon's London office from 1960 to 1966, undoubtedly at that time and through the 1950s one of the most brilliant publicists for wine and related ventures, he retired to Malta and obscurity. The name Tio Pepe was his idea. So was Moet & Chandon's initiation of the Silver Magnum for the International Amateur Riders' Derby at Epsom each August bank holiday. The race with its customary flow of Moet champagne celebrated its 30th anniversary this year.

Born at the beginning of the reign of Edward VII, Venn entered the developing profession of public relations in the 1920s and by the outbreak of the Second World War had made his mark as a freelance originator of new approaches and unconventional ideas. Much of the war he spent in Malta serving with distinction throughout the siege on the staff of the GOC. That experience established a deep affection for the island strengthened by relationships of mutual respect with many of its leading citizens.

Much of Venn's success in business was due to shrewd judgement of people, a sardonic but attractive wit and an impressive presence. Tall, gregarious, with handsome clean-cut features and hair hesitating to turn grey, he kept his figure and seemed eternally young. He never would reveal his age or birthday.

Underlying this professional image was remarkable generosity to others. Through him guests from the UK at Moet's Chateau de Saran in Epernay included poets, film-makers, writers, actors, dancers and leaders of fashion as well as politicians, captains of industry, wine writers and the wine trade. Mixing the rich and influential with the talented poor assisted, argued Lawrence, Moet's image of glamour and distinction at every social level.

History was recruited to further this image. When Nikita Khrushchev visited the Moet cellars during a state visit to France Venn used the occasion to enhance the Moet image in the UK. His press releases and lithographs record a similar visit by Tsar Alexander II shortly after Waterloo. This style of PR and image-projection has changed like wine writing and much else. In the 1950s and 1960s it was hugely effective and Venn was its master practitioner.

My first contact with him came in 1959 after an article I had written for the Times about Monaco's cultural life. He was then public-relations adviser to a number of the principality's concerns as well as to Moet's London agents. Never one to let slip an opportunity, he wanted a similar article in the Times about Moet. This could not be done but it introduced me to the firm's remarkable chairman, the Comte de Vogue. Through this acquaintance, and as wine writer for the Sunday Times, I became spectator at close quarters of de Vogue's plan to place a reluctant Venn in charge of Moet's affairs in London.

Lawrence emerged as architect of the transfer of Moet in UK from a traditional, conventional agency into an organisation which handled exclusively the products of the parent company. The transfer changed Venn too from private publicist into high-powered businessman. He reorganised not only the London office but methods of import and distribution and his public-relations style to spread the champagne image.

Venn's public and personal life were in contradiction, rejecting the ephemeral society around the champagne world. On retirement the private life took over. A small flat in Monte Carlo was his first choice - too expensive, and perhaps too close to his public life. So he moved to Malta. There he created the social oblivion he sought. Unlike his achievements, he could be forgotten.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick