Jean-Louis Vander Elst died April 12 after contracting the coronavirus. He had been unwell for some time.
Born in 1934, Vander Elst worked in the tobacco industry his entire career. He studied commercial engineering at Belgium’s Leuven University, spent time in the United States and subsequently joined his family company Tabacofina-Vander Elst in Antwerp, Belgium, where he stayed until 1982.
The best-known tobacco product in Belgium at that time was the Belga cigarette. One of Vander Elst’s projects was to develop a filtered version of the brand. When Rothmans International took control of Tabacofina-Vander Elst in the early 1980s, Vander Elst joined Casalee in Antwerp.
Six years later he became an independent trader.
Vander Elst was admired and respected across the industry for his broad subject knowledge, along with his interest in mentoring and developing the skills of young people.
Friends instantly recognized Vander Elst’s presence by the aroma of his pipe, which was usually filled with his favorite McBaren Mixture tobacco blend.
To many he was known simply as “The Gentleman.”