Vale: Harold Mitchell

Pioneering media buyer, Harold Mitchell, has died.

Pioneering media buyer, Harold Mitchell, has died, aged 81.

The Australian reports he died after complications arising from recent knee surgery.

He founded Mitchell & Partners in 1976 becoming one of the nation’s largest media and most powerful communications groups and led the development of the media buying industry in Australia.

In 2010 he sold it to Britain’s Aegis Group for a whopping $363 million, becoming Executive Chairman, Aegis Media Pacific.

In December 2000 he launched the Mitchell Foundation donating money to various causes promoting community health and the arts.

He held board roles with the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum Board of Victoria, Opera Australia, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Tennis Australia. the Melbourne International Festival of Arts and the Australia-Indonesia Centre and became a patron of the group helping people deal with alcohol problems, Hello Sunday Morning.

In his memoir Living Large he wrote about his own health issues including obesity and alcoholism, and reflected on a dysfunctional upbringing with an alcoholic mother.

He presented the 2003 Andrew Olle Media Lecture, addressed the National Press Club and featured on Q+A, ABC radio and in countless media articles.

He was Chairman of Free TV Australia from 2013 – 2018 but resigned amid allegations he had acted inappropriately by providing secret information about Tennis Australia to Seven in order to help it win TV rights. The Federal Court subsequently fined him $90,000.

Mitchell was made an Officer of the Order of Australia, and a Companion of the Order of Australia, and was a National Finalist in the 2013 Australian of the Year awards.

Free TV CEO, Bridget Fair, said: “Harold’s contributions to the industry cannot be overstated. During his time as Chairman of Free TV he was pivotal in some of the most significant developments in the commercial television sector and delivered superb leadership and advice. He left a lasting and important legacy at Free TV, having significantly changed the industry for the better and contributing to the sustainability and growth of free-to-air television in his time as Chairman. Harold’s strategic insights and steadfast commitment to the industry’s best interests contributed significantly to its resilience and relevance in an evolving digital era.

“Speaking personally, I am devastated at Harold’s loss. He was an outstanding Chairman for Free TV as well as being a personal friend and mentor. It was a great privilege to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from a respected business leader of his calibre with such a deep understanding of commercial television and the wider industry landscape. He was generous with his knowledge, his energy and his time in furthering the interests of Free TV broadcasters.

“He never lost his passion for the industry and remained in touch on every key issue even after stepping down as Chairman, right up until recent weeks.

“Harold was one of a kind, this is truly the end of an era. He will be sorely missed by Free TV and the commercial television industry. We thank him for his outstanding service and friendship. Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with his family and friends.”

Danny Bass, CEO, media, dentsu said, “Arriving in Australia in the late ‘90s, it was clear the industry was defined by three: Murdoch, Packer and Mitchell. Harold Mitchell was a titan that defined Australia’s media landscape for many decades and must be remembered in the pantheon of Australian media legends. He was a powerhouse of our industry and passionately believed in the power of advertising. Harold was a fierce competitor, a passionate Australian and a passionate Victorian. I worked with him both on media side and as a competitor and once he retired, he was very generous with his time with on me a number of occasions. Harold Mitchell’s legacy is one that is hard to capture in a few short sentences, but it is one that lives on in those who knew him and the industry he helped shape into a competitive force on the global stage. His passion for the arts and sports and efforts in philanthropy will also be remembered.”

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