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‘We just lost a true friend’


WAN-IFRA lost a big part of its family a few weeks ago when Manfred Werfel, the association’s former deputy CEO and director of the World Printers Forum, passed away. He was 68. Manfred is survived by his wife, Silvia, and their two sons, Felix and Fabian Several industry friends and colleagues have paid homage. This piece is by Dean Roper

“Manfred embodied the spirit of our association: insatiable curiosity, a keen sense of service to members, listening, professionalism and rigour. His empathy for people, his generosity, and his good humour enabled him to overcome all challenges. Manfred was and will remain a model for all of us,” said Vincent Peyrègne, WAN-IFRA CEO.

“Manfred was a legend at WAN-IFRA,” said Thomas Jacob, WAN-IFRA COO. “As a professional with deep knowledge, he was respected and admired by the print fraternity around the world. He was an inspiration to his colleagues with his calm demeanour and sense of humour. I had the privilege and honour of working closely with Manfred over several years. He was a pillar of support and strength while steering the organisation out of the many crises. We have lost a true friend.”

“He was a reference and a model of professionalism for those of us who wanted to learn and grow in this exciting job,” said Fernando De Yarza López-Madrazo, WAN-IFRA President and president of Henneo Media Group in Spain. “Manfred will always be in our memory and in a privileged place in the history of this wonderful journey that is WAN-IFRA.”

At the Gutenberg University in Mainz, Manfred actually studied and graduated with the idea of becoming a teacher. That education would later serve him well in guiding newspaper professionals all over the world about the ins and outs of newspaper production.

Manfred started his professional career at Linotype in 1984, cultivating his knowledge of the graphics and news industries for 12 years. He joined then-IFRA in 1996 as research manager, working for print production guru Boris Fuchs, the research director and deputy CEO at that time. After Boris retired in 1999, Manfred took over as research director and it didn’t take long for him to carve out his own legendary status within the industry. And just like Boris, his wisdom and knowledge spanned broader than just print production.

He would go on to champion newspapers, quality printing and production in numerous ways: like taking the International Color Quality Club competition truly global, or speaking and moderating at numerous events, or consulting and helping printing operations all over the world.

But his role expanded in 2009 when he was named interim deputy CEO, a role that would stick until his retirement in 2019. In between, he took on such critical roles as executive director of Global Events, responsible for managing the World Publishing Expo and World News Media Congress. All the while, launching the World Printers Forum and establishing its board, as well as producing numerous research reports – often on his own. He did all of that with his constant sense of purpose in serving WAN-IFRA members – and always with his trademark sense of professionalism and humour.

“I first met Manfred Werfel in person in June 1997 when I started working for him on the ICQC samples in Darmstadt,” said Ingi Olafsson, Manfred’s successor (and recommendation) as director of the World Printers Forum. “There and then we formed a friendship that lasted to this day. Through the years he was an inspiration and wealth of knowledge. His legacy is renowned in the newspaper production area. Always professional but humorous and good-natured at the same time. I will miss him very much. My deepest condolences to Silvia and his sons Felix and Fabian.”

(Dean Roper is director of Insights and editor-in-chief of WAN-IFRA, responsible for coordinating all activities related to the organisation’s array of multimedia publications.)

Editor’s Note: We first interacted when Manfred was research director and deputy CEO – he from Darmstadt and me from IFRA’s Chennai office. He wished to start a new initiative – the IFRA Flashlight Report, a series of research reports for IFRA members across the world which could be downloaded as digital files. Manfred wanted me to edit the reports. From then on, and especially during my innings with IFRA, we forged a close association and even met several times. The high point was my visit to the IFRA office Darmstadt in 2008 or so en route to Vienna for the IFRA Expo. Throughout, Manfred was his jolly self and a gracious host, warm and friendly as ever. At conferences, I have often wondered how he could wade in easily to take charge and make complex things appear so simple. But more than anything, he will be remembered as a wonderful human being. I will miss him sorely. RIP!

June 2022