Michel Roux, who receives the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame “Patron of the Arts” award this evening, has served for the past 11 years as President and CEO of Carillon Importers, a New Jersey-based company which imports to America
such major brand names as Absolut Vodka and Grand Marnier Liqueurs, among other key logos in the field of imported premium wines and spirits. The company is also known as a leader in the utilization of the arts as an effective vehicle for brand identification in advertising and promotion as well as a reflection of Mr. Roux’s personal devotion to the arts as the fodder for a better and more uplifting life experience for many people.
Indeed, Mr. Roux has covered many bases as a facet of his interest in and patronage of many areas of the arts, including music and ballet, as well as paintings, graphic arts, sculpture and fashion design.
On behalf of Absolut Vodka, Carillon’s leading brand name, Mr. Roux has organized sponsorship for more than 20 major concerts which have spotlighted such stellar names as Stephane Grappelli, Michel Legrand, Antonio CarlosJobim, AlJarreau, Claude Boiling, The Count Basic Orchestra, Paquito D’Rivera,
Manhattan Transfer, the Swingle Singers and the renowned cellist, Yo Yo Ma. Additionally, under the Absolut banner, philanthropic support has been extended to such worthy entities as The Harlem School for the Arts and The Manhattan School of Music. Mr. Roux has also funded tuition for students at The Juilliard School of Music.
Born in southwestern France in 1940, Mr. Roux immigrated to the United States in 1964. For six years, he was employed as a manager of several rather colorful night clubs and restaurants in Dallas, Fort Worth and Corpus Christi, Texas. Six years later, in 1970, he joined the then fledgling Carillon Importers in New York as the company’s first salesman. Shortly later, he also participated actively in developing marketing and financial departments for the firm. The success of all these efforts brought a major reward in 1981, when he was named President and CEO of the company, a post he continues to hold today.
Under Mr. Roux’s stewardship, Carillon’s commitment to the arts began in earnest in 1985, when he commissioned the renowned pop art luminary, Andy Warhol, to create a dramatic depiction of the Absolut bottle. This became the kick-off point for an ongoing and extended commissioning of works by more than 300 artists, virtually all of whose works were later to be showcased as part of Absolut’s award-winning advertising campaign.
Mr. Roux has also, in recent years, enjoyed an intimate association with the world of ballet, having commissioned new works by young American choreographers, which were later performed by members of the Jeffrey Ballet during special ballet evenings in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In the classical music realm, Mr. Roux organized a series of “Absolut Concerto” concerts at New York’s Lincoln Center, a series which is now in its fifth year. Among the composers whose commissioned works have been performed in the series are John Adams, Joan Tower, Morton Gould, Lukas Foss, Samuel Zyman, Aaron Jay Kernis, Augusta Thomas and Michael Daugherty.
For the highly popular Grand Marnier name, Mr. Roux founded the Grand Marnier Foundation in 1985, which has since become widely recognized for its philanthropic support of a broad range of projects. These include The New York City Adopt-A-Monument Program, Futures for Children, The Wilkes-Barre Ballet Theater, Sky Ranch for Boys and numerous others.
In addition to his wide-ranging executive duties, Mr. Roux has also found lime to pursue his interest in enology (the study of wines) by writing and editing three books on French wine, including “A Guide to the Vineyards and Chateaux of Bordeaux,” “A Guide to the Vineyards and Domains of Burgundy” and “A Guide to the Vineyards, Estates and Wines of Germany.”