David Cardwell obituary

Other lives: Leader in brand licensing in the UK, whose work built on the childhood memories of generations

My father, David Cardwell, who has died aged 76, was the co-founder and executive chairman of the brand licensing company Copyright Promotions Limited (CPL, now CPLG). David and his business partner, Richard Culley, were among those who established the UK licensing industry, thus shaping a significant sector of British business and building on the childhood memories of generations.

David Cardwell, left, and his business partner, Richard Culley, with a model of the TV character Fred Flintstone and his car
David Cardwell, left, and his business partner, Richard Culley, with a model of the TV character Fred Flintstone and his car Photograph: None

David recognised the powerful appeal of treasured children’s characters, and realised their potential to reach beyond their original story contexts. Across Europe, CPL was responsible for toys, clothing, food and other items inspired by and adorned with beloved characters including Noddy, the Mr Men and Little Miss, Dangermouse, Tom and Jerry, the Pink Panther, the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, the Flintstones and My Little Pony, and imagery from cartoon and film series such as Thunderbirds, Spiderman, X-Men, Star Trek and Star Wars.

David was born in the village of Huntspill in Somerset, the son of Thomas Cardwell, a steel fixer, and Marie (nee Raven), a school cook. He left school at 14 and travelled to London with no money or academic qualifications, but full of ideas, energy and ambition. He started out as an errand boy for the Daily Express; helped create the Elvis Monthly magazine; worked as a music journalist, including for NME and Pop Weekly; and became a publicist and manager for new pop music acts, most notably the Paper Dolls and Pikkettywitch. In 1974 David co-founded CPL and began work, with the Cosgrove Hall animation studio, on a TV series of Noddy.

CPL began in a cramped office space in London – a tiny British company, of two people, attempting to compete against vast corporations including Disney. Today it has offices in every major European country, is in the top 10 global licensing agencies and its alumni include some of the sector’s most respected professionals.

David’s values informed the company’s reputation for bold creativity and innovative thinking. Open, internationalist and ethical in outlook, David appreciated and valued local expertise, and was noted for his keenness to encourage, mentor and support new talent wherever he found it. As a measure and expression of the esteem in which his colleagues, peers and competitors held him, he was awarded a lifetime achievement award in 2000 at the Brand Licensing London Awards (now the Licensing Awards).

David’s energy, humour, audacity, kindness and generosity will never be forgotten by those who knew him. He retired from CPL in 2004, but continued to act as a licensing consultant.

David met Sue Cotton, his future wife, in Charing Cross hospital in 1967. He had managed to rupture his spleen while energetically dancing the twist and Sue was one of his nurses. They married in 1969.

She survives him, along with their three children and two grandchildren.

Sarah Cardwell Davies

The GuardianTramp

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