An Absolut Legend

Two legends in the spirits industry, Patrick Ricard (left) and Michel Roux (right), at Michel's 70th birthday in 2010. Patrick Ricard was chairman and CEO for Pernod Ricard and is responsible for the company's monumental international growth in the decades that lead up to his tragic death in 2012.

Had it not been for a certain Frenchman’s passion and personality, Absolut would probably never have achieved the success it did in the US – and ultimately the world. His name was Michel Roux and between 1979 and 1994 he was responsible for marketing and sales of Absolut in the US. Sadly, at the age of 78, he has now passed away.

Michel Roux was arguably the most important person behind Absolut’s success in the US during the 1980’s and 1990’s, paving the way for the worldwide recognition the Swedish premium vodka enjoys today. Much of this can be credited to Michel’s rebelliousness and undying passion for the brand. Michel once said, regarding the marketing of Absolut, that “We didn’t want to win the argument. We wanted to change the discussion.”

Through legendary advertising and artist collaborations – commissioned on Michel’s behalf – Absolut shifted the perception of what a sprits brand could be. Contemporary artists like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring wanted to work with the brand, and Absolut soon extended its collaborations into all fields of American culture – visual art, music, literature, fashion. 

Michel will always be remembered at The Absolut Company, especially by those who have had the honor to meet him. Paula Eriksson and Björn von Matérn, who have worked at The Absolut Company for a combined 36 years, have met Michel on a several occasions. Both say that meeting him left a lasting impression.

“He had a life-long love affair with Absolut. I can clearly remember the first time I met him. It was at an event we organized shortly after The Absolut Company was acquired by Pernod Ricard,” says Paula Eriksson. This was in 2011, when Michel and his company Carillon Importers hadn’t been involved in the marketing of Absolut for roughly 15 years. “I knew he had been important to Absolut’s success during the 80s and the 90s, but frankly I didn’t know that much about his work. You could really tell what Absolut meant for him, though,” Paula remembers, “At this event, he was interviewed on-stage and received a standing ovation for his work. When he sat down afterwards, in the seat next to mine, I could see there were tears in his eyes. He was that touched by being back with the company.”

“If you ask me, Michel has been the single most important person to Absolut.” 

Björn von Matérn notes Michel’s love Absolut, but also mentions the one trait he believes kept that love intact. “His curiosity. It kept him moving. Though he always had a story to tell, he was above all a very good listener,” he says, adding, “If you ask me, Michel has been the single most important person to Absolut.” 

However, Michel’s legacy will not be limited to what he achieved with Absolut. “Michel made Absolut Vodka aspirational. By making it part of popular culture and relevant to people,” Paula explains, “he changed the perception of what a sprits brand could be.”

Björn also mentions two breakthroughs attributed to Michel that are well-established in the industry today, but were seen as groundbreaking at the time, “Thanks to Michel’s confidence in Absolut’s quality and by seeing the real potential it had, he created the premium vodka segment,” he says, continuing, “He also introduced the first-ever flavored vodka, Absolut Peppar. You really can’t underestimate the influence Michel has had on this industry.”