Significant Seven – Power Couples

In a feature that first appeared in Encore, we rank the seven most significant industry pairings. 

1. Gerry Harvey, chairman, Harvey Norman and Katie Page, CEO, Harvey Norman 

Gerry Harvey and Katie Page are two of Australia’s most successful marketers. Over three decades they have built a multibillion dollar business empire which today is one of the largest advertisers in Australian media. A partnership since 1983, the couple married in 1988. In that time they have worked a clever strategy with Harvey the chairman and public face of the brand while Page serves as operational head of the franchise chain. Key to their success has been a canny use of marketing with ads often fronted by Harvey himself.

The partnership has seen Harvey’s wealth skyrocket to $1.65 billion while his wife’s wealth is estimated by BRW at a more modest $50m, still making her one of the richest female executives in Australia. They are described as a close couple and have been known to rib each other in public. Last year during a campaign against tax loopholes for overseas shopping websites, Harvey revealed “at least half” of his family – read Page – had cyber shopped in the past year. Page’s retort to her husband was “everyone is doing it”, although she went on to publicly back the campaign.

2. Lachlan Murdoch, chairman, Channel Ten and DMG Radio and Sarah Murdoch, TV host 

While they may be the highest profile of Australia’s media power couples, the Murdochs have possibly had the most tumultuous 12 months.

The son of global media baron Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan has battled to keep Channel Ten’s head above water faced with poor ratings and a nose-diving share price. Embarrassingly, one of the network’s most spectacular failures since Murdoch began his hands-on involvement was a show believed to have been put in motion during his reign as interim CEO – Everybody Dance Now, hosted by Sarah. After the dance show’s ratings bottomed out, the network was forced to axe the program. Murdoch had left her post as host of Australia’s Next Top model to take on the gig – a job that had her in the media spotlight after the 2010 bungling of the live winner announcement. Her next TV gig is unknown. Lachlan and Sarah have been married for 14 years and have three children.

3. David Gyngell, CEO, Nine Entertainment Co and Leila McKinnon, co-host, Weekend Today

The Gyngell name is in many ways Australian TV royalty – David Gyngell is the son of Bruce Gyngell, who was famously the first person to appear on Australian television. He also helped to set up Channel Nine in the 1950s. Today, son David is the CEO of the Nine Entertainment Co. His partner Leila McKinnon is the glamorous host of Weekend Today and one of the presenters to front Nine’s 2012 Olympics coverage. The media spotlight was turned on the couple’s private life last year during a dramatic 48 hours which saw business and family collide when McKinnon went into labour while Gyngell was embroiled in negotiations to save Nine from crippling debt. McKinnon gave birth to their son Edmund “Ted” Gyngell. Gyngell senior told media eager to hear about the fate of Nine that he had “more important things to attend to; my wife is having a baby”. The following day, Gyngell was back in the boardroom where he brokered an 11th-hour deal.

4. Andrew Denton, television producer and host and Jennifer Byrne, journalist and TV presenter 

ABC darlings Andrew Denton and Jennifer Byrne are two of the most recognisable, and most trusted, faces on Australian television. Between them they have clocked up more than half a century of time in front of the camera with Denton most recently hosting the gameshow Randling but better remembered for his interview series Enough Rope. Byrne has fronted the First Tuesday Book Club since 2006. But the pair have more tricks up their sleeve than hosting with Denton producing a number of successful programs including Gruen, Hungry Beast and famously giving The Chaser their big break. Byrne is a trained journalist who began as a cadet at The Age in Melbourne. She has also hosted radio. In past interviews, Byrne has described her husband as a sometimes solitary figure who does much of his best work in his library or ‘brain shed’ while Denton has paid tribute to his wife for her positive outlook. He told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2005: “It’s the thing that Jennifer’s really taught me… that optimism is not just a state you fall into, it’s a force of will.”

Carlos Alija and Laura Sampedro5. Carlos Alija and Laura Sampedro, executive creative directors, BMF 

Carlos Alija and Laura Sampedro are joint creative directors of BMF, the agency named in 2011 by Encore’s sister publication, Mumbrella, as the number one creative agency in Australia. While the creative shop has lost some of its sheen in recent months, it still maintains major clients including Meat and Livestock Australia, Aldi and NRMA. The appointment of the Spanish couple came as a surprise to many in the advertising community in 2012. BMF described the move as bringing ‘Spanish passion’ to the agency. Alija and Sampedro work closely together even going so far as co-signing emails. The pair knew each other from frequent trips to Paris when they both worked on the Renault account for BBDO in Europe. Alija says: “I thought she was so talented that I decided to marry her so I could make sure that she would come back home every day.” They have worked together for nine years and Sampedro says: “Each of us is more experienced in certain areas but we deeply respect each other’s views. When one of us has a strong point of view about something, that’s usually the right one. I guess it’s a matter of trust after so many years.”

6. John O’Connor, CEO, Dentsu Australia and Michelle Hutton, CEO, Edelman Australia 

Between them they run the Australian operations of two of the biggest global communications brands with Michelle Hutton heading up Edelman and her husband John O’Connor at the helm of Dentsu Australia. The couple met almost two decades ago while working at AMP – Hutton was a junior communications manager and O’Connor was starting out as a copywriter. At the recent CommsCon conference in Sydney, Hutton recalled how they met. “My husband likes to tell the story of how he walked into the PR department one day and saw this young, fresh, PR lass reading the Financial Review,” Hutton said. “He thought it was terribly impressive and asked ‘do you actually read that?’ To which I replied ‘oh, of course I do’.” The couple have been together since and have risen through the ranks of their respective professions. Hutton left AMP for Hill & Knowlton where she was appointed CEO in 2008. In 2010 she moved across to Edelman. O’Connor has built an impressive career working for automotive brands Toyota, Holden and Kia as an advertising executive before setting up strategy consultancy Simple Truths. In 2012 he was appointed CEO of Dentsu Australia.

7. Leigh Terry, CEO Omnicom Media Group Australia and Kristin Carlos, head of TV at Yahoo!7 

As the CEO of Omnicom Media Group, Leigh Terry oversees an agency network with billings fast approaching the $1billion dollar mark while his wife Kristin Carlos, the head of TV at Yahoo!7, has the commanding task of coordinating the online platform’s digital television partnerships and driving apps such as Fango, which now boasts more than 700,000 downloads. Prior to his current position, Terry held a variety of account management and media planning roles and was responsible for launching OMD Digital in the UK in 2000. In 2005 he moved to OMD Australia and soon became managing partner. In 2011 he was promoted to CEO of parent company Omnicom Media Group, now shepherding a portfolio including media agencies OMD and PHD. Carlos worked for Yahoo! in Europe before moving to Australia. Those close to the couple describe them as a good complement to each other. “Kristin brings out Leigh’s softer side,” said an associate of the pair.

Encore issue 8

This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.


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