By Stephen Mayne

The Australian’s Jane Schulzehad a nice piece
today looking at family dynasties in the media, pointing out that
Rural Press, The Seven Network, the Gordon family’s WIN TV and even
media buying giant Harold Mitchell are all examples in the Australian
market which, of course, is still dominated by the Murdoch and Packer
families.

Like no other industry in the world, the media attracts family
dynasties which possibly reflects the original goal of many media
owners – to exert influence that assists their other businesses or
political power. Kerry Stokes first got into television, on the urging
of WIN’s Bruce Gordon, to promote a shopping centre he was developing
in Bunbury.

Mark Day makes the point in The Australian’sMedia section today that much of the Russian media is controlled by those seeking influence:

The abundance of new titles sprang from the collapse of communism in 1991.
Most are owned by businessmen or corporations with a barrow to push and a belief
that their opinion can cut through the clutter and influence Russian life. They
may be oil barons or perhaps connected with the omnipresent Russian Mafia, but
they conform to the great tradition of Russian publishing: a mouthpiece for
opinion.

So it’s not surprising that many media companies battle with
succession planning. Our “heirs who dogged it” list is dominated by the
media industry with Clyde Packer and now Lachlan Murdoch leading the
way. Tony O’Reilly’s eldest son Cameron bowed out two years ago
but remains on the board of APN.

Who can forget the way Bob Ansett failed to follow in his famous
father’s footsteps at the airline company which was also a player in
the media through its ownership of Channel Ten?

Other prominent rich listers are also worth canvassing. Billionaire
former Rosemount owner Bob Oatley is often mentioned with his son Sandy,
but another son, Ian Oatley, hasn’t joined them in the family business.

And what about Australia’s richest women? The present holder of that
title is Gina
Reinhart, who’s living off the iron ore royalties of
Hancock Prospecting, which are still rising if Rio Tinto’s latest
stellar profit result is any guide. Reinhart has just done a deal with
Rio Tinto to develop
Hope Downs in the Pilbara which will make her even wealthier, but she’s
not joined in this venture by her eldest son, John, who has decided
to go his own way and is now active in business in Hong Hong.

Janet Holmes a Court used to be described as “Australia’s richest
woman” and she has also parted company with her oldest son, Peter, who
is forging his own path in Sydney after leaving listed pastoral company
Aust Ag two years ago.

Finally, we should correct Monday’s item
when we said that Gerry Harvey’s son Michael had “dogged it” in 1998,
according to his father at that year’s AGM. Relations can’t be too bad
because Michael is still a non-executive director on the Harvey Norman
board.

Check out Crikey’s list of Australia’s many media dynasties (big and small) and keep the suggestions coming to [email protected]

Peter Fray

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