He’s not Rupert Murdoch of course but Harold Mitchell, who’s just sold his Mitchell Communication Group based in Melbourne to Aegis for £207m, is arguably the most successful member of that once quite large of media department refugees who departed full service agencies to set up independent media planning and buying companies.
Mitchell began his business in 1976 after failing to persuade his agency employer to spin off its media business. Just like Paul Green, David Reich and Chris Ingram in the UK he was fed up with media (where the clients’ money was actually spent – or invested, as they say these days) taking a back seat (Paul Green of Media Buying Services famously observed that the agency carpet stopped at the entrance to the media department).
Now, by selling to the one remaining international media agency group Aegis, Mitchell has trousered around £60m in shares and remains the titular boss, at 67, of what will be Aegis Media Pacific. His son Stuart is CEO of the agency.
This is a staggering achievement in the Australian ad market, small in comparison to the US and Europe but with a pivotal role in booming Asia Pacific. The only comparison I can think of is the UK’s Chris Ingram who made a similar amount of money when WPP bought his company Tempus (formerly CIA) in a bitter takeover battle.
But Ingram, after firing all the heavy artillery he could get his hands on at Sir Martin Sorrell, left the company and has failed to achieve similar pre-eminence since, an ambitious consultancy venture failing to fly.
Mitchell, whose company also includes everything from direct marketing to sports businesses and PR, has played the long game and, it would appear, won on all counts.