Mans Lejeune, well known and respected throughout Europe as the first secretary general of FINAT, died February 11 at age 79. Following is a tribute by John Penhallow, who knew Lejeune well and writes on behalf of those who admired him.
For more than 30 years the name Mans Lejeune was inseparable from that of the label association FINAT. His sudden death on February 11, 2011, at the age of 79 was a moment of sadness for his family and for his wide circle of friends drawn from both business and private life.
Mans studied economics at Tilburg University in Holland, and subsequently at the University of Minnesota. He was a great believer in Europe and in 1959 became private secretary to the vice president of the European Parliament. In this position, Mans was very much involved with a wide range of political topics and industry problems caused by the introduction of free competition in the European Market. With all this experience behind him he decided to “change horses” and to start his own business, first as an EU lobbyist and then as a manager of trade associations.
Although FINAT was founded in November 1958, it was not until Mans became involved as secretary general in 1969 that the association really began to flourish. This was a direct result of his involvement and organization. When he retired in 2000, FINAT had more than 500 members.
His organization of the annual FINAT Congress was legendary. The venues included many of the major cities throughout Europe, and his attention to detail made each event very special. He had an almost photographic memory and would often recall amusing incidents from previous congresses. His final appearance at a FINAT event was as a guest of honor at FINAT’s 50th anniversary congress in Paris in 2008.
In 1991 FINAT, under the guidance of Mans, became the sponsor of the Labelexpo shows in Brussels and Asia. This funding enabled the association over the years to carry out various projects which otherwise might have had to wait.
In 2000, Mans handed over the management to his son Jules, who continues to manage FINAT successfully.
But there is another side to Mans Lejeune: He was a dedicated sportsman who was involved with hockey to an international standard and was also very handy with a tennis racquet and a golf club, as well as being an avid cyclist. He was a leading light in the Royal Dutch Hockey Club. He was also chairman of his local hockey club, and was deeply involved in the organization of European Cup tournaments.
Finally he was above all a true family man who balanced his working and home life to perfection. He always said that his great support through all his achievements was his wife, Tonny. He leaves behind a legacy of success gained by honesty, intelligence and devotion to duty.
People liked Mans Lejeune, they trusted him and he did not disappoint them. We will miss him greatly.