No.17: Frank Lowy (Westfield co-founder and FFA chairman). As founder of Westfield and the modern mall, Frank Lowy has had a huge impact on the way we live, shop and work. But that’s just for starters; in 2003, he set up the Lowy Institute for International Policy, arguably Australia’s leading think tank.
The 81-year-old entrepreneur, who was born in Czechoslovakia in 1930 and fought the Arabs in Israel after the Second World War, also served as a director of the Reserve Bank for a decade, from 1995 to 2005.
A big donor to both major political parties, he has been courted constantly by Australian prime ministers — John Howard, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Kevin Rudd — despite recurring problems with the Australian Taxation Office.
To round off his influence, Lowy has long been chairman of Football Federation Australia, which runs soccer in this country. Not to mention he is one of Australia’s richest men, with a fortune of around $5 billion.
However, Lowy keeps a low profile politically, unlike the mining magnates who have so upset Wayne Swan, and his think tank is generally moderate and non-partisan. But he is a passionate supporter of Israel, founding and chairing Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies, which, according to Antony Loewenstein, author of My Israel Question, “produces research that pushes a hardline, Zionist line on the Israel-Palestine conflict”. — Paul Barry
No.16: Harold Mitchell (media buyer). Harold Mitchell’s the nation’s biggest ad buyer. And having just turned 70 and hived off 70 kilograms thanks to his 2009 lap-band surgery, he’s showing little sign of slowing down.
“I’m probably the most powerful man in the media, I guess,” the charmingly skittish Mitchell admits, pointing out that The Power Index is sitting in the exact same foyer seat that James Packer had occupied just days before (Lachlan Murdoch usually sits opposite).
The down-to-earth Mitchell, who didn’t finish high school and never went to uni, doesn’t write, or type, preferring to dictate direct to his office manager. But his sizable footprint is everywhere, and not just because he controls the fate of $1 billion in ads through the local arm of Aegis, the global media buying agency that bought his Mitchell Communication Group in 2010 for $363 million.
Aegis was recently offered $4.8 billion takeover bid by Japanese ad company Dentsu, reaping Mitchell a $200 million payday. Mitchell will retain his role as head of Australian operations should the deal go through.
Young & Rubicam Brands chief and Gruen Transfer star Russel Howcroft says Mitchell has a “genuine benevolence” about what he does and utilises a “combination of hard and soft power … he’s soft but hard when he needs to be.”
“When he decides that something needs to happen, he makes sure it happens.” — Andrew Crook (read the full story at The Power Index)
No.15: Chris Mitchell (editor-in-chief of The Australian). Big and brash with an overgrown shock of hair that adds inches to his already-imposing frame, Chris Mitchell is the most influential newspaper editor in the country.
As editor-in-chief of national News Limited broadsheet The Australian, Mitchell is the no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners newspaper man who has become the face of what Bob Brown calls the “hate media”, and learnt to wield significant political influence himself along the way.
Accused of being everything from crusading and bloody-minded to controlling and arrogant, the Brisbane-bred Mitchell has been a journalist all of his adult life. His instincts on what makes a good yarn have been honed over more than 20 years as an editor. And while some on the Labor and Greens side of politics may have come to despise him, there’s little doubt Mitchell’s front page is a breakfast must-read for anyone in the power game.
Well-resourced and strongly led, the paper often boasts some of the best journalism in the country. But critics also deride its inclination to needlessly attack and criticise enemies regardless of size.
Still, one thing is for sure: despite a circulation of just 130,000, The Oz’s tentacles spread far and wide, with Mitchell piloting the way. — Tom Cowie