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NEWS20 March 2018

Obituary: Laurence Curtis

News People UK

UK – Laurence Curtis died peacefully at home on 22nd February with his wife Andree and children Gemma and Daniel at his bedside. He was 72 years old. 

For three and a half years Laurence had battled leukaemia without complaint, undergoing chemo, stem cell transplants and long periods of hospitalisation.

Laurence started his career in the statistics department of advertising agency Masius Wynne Williams before moving to Marketing Advisory Services (MAS). Former colleague Simon de Wardner contributes a recollection of Laurence’s early days at MAS and his passion for a cause, saying. “In June 1967 Laurence and I were working in the big room on the 2nd floor above the stables behind the (old) Berkeley Hotel. On Monday 5th June the Six Day War started and we were appalled and our concern and enthusiasm grew daily. By the end of the week we had sworn allegiance to the cause and had determined to go and fight for Israel. We were entirely sincere, were working out how to get there and how to inform parents when luckily for us (and the World) the war was over as suddenly as it had begun. Monday 12th of March was a normal day above the stables.”  

Laurence moved on to Westminster Research Bureau (WRB) and then experienced client side at tobacco manufacturer Gallaher. He then returned to MAS ending up as a director, with particular responsibility for growing the companies highly successful omnibus (omniMAS) and other continuous services.

In 1988 he joined The Research Business Group, first running its field arm Focus on Research before moving to TRBI, and then becoming chief executive of Maritz TRBI in 1996, before the UK business’ acquisition by Synovate in 2004. Long time colleague Neil Swan says: “Laurence brought a strong sense of fun and a can-do attitude to everything. Everyone, researchers and support staff alike, learned from his determination to think ahead and find a way to get things done – and enjoy themselves on the way. When I first met him in that notorious market research pub, The Peacock in Maiden Lane, I thought he was a moustachioed gangster. Later, we had great times together at TRBI”.

From 2008 to 2014, as chairman, Laurence headed up the board at the private equity backed Future Thinking Group. Here he brought to bear his considerable research experience, management and strategic skill to a company which under his chairmanship went from £5m in turnover to £17m. During that period, as well as the international expansion into Europe and in particular into France, the company made six acquisitions, expanding Future Thinking’s product and market sector capabilities.

Laurence was a fellow of the MRS and particularly active on the Conference Committee, as Martyn Richards recalls: “I chaired four MRS conferences ( 1997-2000 ) with Laurence as a stalwart support. His attendance at conferences is legendary, and I am proud to have shared many of those moments with him. Together we took the conference back to Brighton at the end of the century, with a couple of the most successful MRS conferences ever. I treasure my memories and mourn his loss”.  

Laurence’s wife Andree says she has had countless emails from friends and colleagues, many of whom she has never met, saying how good it was to work with him and how he helped and mentored many of them. He was so modest that he had no idea how much he was respected and liked.

The common theme throughout was Laurence’s great sense of humour. He was incredibly sociable and great fun to be around. Nonsense made him laugh – Spike Milligan, Tommy Cooper, the Goons. As well as comedy, Laurence also loved 1950s and 60s music. He had such an encyclopaedic and instinctive knowledge that from just one bar of a song he could name the artist, the title and the date it was recorded.

Laurence liked most sports. As a young man he was a very skilful footballer playing both Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. He was a lifelong, devoted Spurs supporter and enjoyed nothing more than friendly banter with his Arsenal counterparts, even managing to include a humorous dig in his funeral message to the congregation. Laurence was also a good club cricketer, proficient with both bat and ball and played league table tennis. Particularly in later life, he became a passionate golfer, sharing with most of us the frustrations and rare highs of this most difficult game. For a number of years, he was secretary of the seniors at his club Moor Park, organising the fixtures, teams and other events with his normal good humour and efficiency.

His other undying passions were good food and after retirement, cooking and planning holidays. His love and knowledge of food is exemplified by a Paris meeting of IBM’s international research suppliers where at the formal meeting he was very impressed, if not a little daunted, by the linguistic skills of his supplier colleagues. However, at the evening dinner Laurence became the linguist supreme, explaining to all in great detail each dish on the French menu.

It was standing room only at Laurence’s funeral at Golders Green Crematorium on 26th February. The market research community was well represented with former colleagues joining other friends and the family to say farewell to this very special person.

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