And the rest is history…
Long before Michel was concocting award-winning advertising campaigns, he was busy advertising himself as a hard-working dishwasher at the Rice Hotel in Houston, Texas. After just a week of employment, Michel immediately stood out to hotel management and he was promoted to work behind the reception desk in the lobby. A year and a half later, he was offered an assistant manager position at a resort in Rockport, Texas.
It wasn’t long after he took over the assistant manager position that Michel decided to venture out on his own, beginning with opening two French bistros in Texas. Michel’s restaurants proved to be unique with a genuine French menu and were generating quite the buzz. Soon, the long hours became too much and Michel began to find opportunities in sales to be much more appealing. He then decided to sell his bistros to his partner.
Michel’s fun began in 1970, when he became the first salesman for Carillon Importers, Ltd. He traveled by car across America trying to convey the exquisiteness of his products, like Grand Marnier, to get the attention of retailers, wholesalers and bars. While it was no easy feat to convince the people he met that they should invest in the products he was distributing, Michel believed in what he was selling and it was evident in his every interaction.
Michel is credited with being the catalyst behind much of Carillon’s success and was beginning to enjoy much of his own success. Moving through the ranks quickly, he was named president of Carillon in just 12 years, despite the lethargic economy in the 1980’s.
Michel’s eccentric and artsy marketing tactics proved to be successful year after year with the rising numbers in Absolut, Grand Marnier, and Bombay Gin cases. To distinguish the marketing campaigns for Michel’s spirits, he commissioned art from legendary artists like Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Romero Britto, Ed Roche, Leroy Neiman, and many other talented artists. In 1987, Michel even went as far as crafting moving ads, the first lighted musical ad, and talking ads for Absolut, with the help of the award-winning advertising agency TBWA whose co-founder Bill Tragos was a dear friend of Michel.
Aside from being the wine and liquor industry’s most successful salesman (as if that is not enough), Michel has also been a foreign trade counselor for the French government. In addition, he was awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest honor by President Francois Mitterand in 1989 and named Commander of the North Star, Sweden’s highest honor from King Carl XVI Gustaf.
The amount of passion Michel places into everything he’s accomplished over the years is undeniable, especially when it comes to his “children.”
“I live my brands. They are not a commodity to make a profit on, they are a living thing. I’ve been living with them for 20 years, some of them less. I have bred them properly and they are all good kids.” – Michel Roux, circa 1989 Popai