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John Singleton (Australian entrepreneur)

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John Singleton

Leader of the Progress Party
In office
19 February 1977 – 23 February 1980
Deputy Sinclair Hill
Preceded by Himself
(as Leader of the Australian Workers' Party)
Succeeded by Party abolished
Leader of the Australian Workers' Party
In office
16 January 1975 – 19 February 1977
Deputy Sinclair Hill
Preceded by Party established
Succeeded by Himself
(as Leader of the Progress Party)
Chairman of STW Communications Group
Assumed office
Chief Brand Officer and Executive Creative Director of Qantas
In office
Director of
Doyle Dane Bernbach Australia
In office
Partner of
Singleton, Palmer & Strauss, McAllan
In office
Creative Director of
J. Walter Thompson Australia
In office
Personal details
John Desmond Singleton

(1941-11-09) 9 November 1941 (age 77)
Enfield, New South Wales Australia
Political party Labor (before 1975; after 1983)
Previous affiliations;
Independent (1981-83)
Progress (1977-81)
Workers' (1975-77)
Spouse(s) Margaret Wall
(m. 1964; div. 71; 1 child)
Maggi Eckardt
(m. 1976; div. 81)
Belinda Green
(m. 1982; div. 87; 2 children)
Liz Hayes
(m. 1991; div. 92)
Julie Martin
(m. 1997; div. 06; 3 children)
(sep. 04)
Domestic partner Jennifer Murrant
(c. 1992; sep. 95; 2 children)
Yvette Hartman
(c. 2004; sep. 11)
Children 8
Education Fort Street Boys' School
Alma mater University of Sydney (attended)
Profession Entrepreneur

John Desmond Singleton AM (born 9 November 1941) is an Australian entrepreneur. He built his success and wealth in the advertising business in Australia in the 1970s and 1980s. He now has diverse investment interests in radio broadcasting, publishing and thoroughbred breeding and racing.

Early life

Singleton was born in the Sydney suburb of Enfield and educated at Fort Street High School, New South Wales.

Advertising career

He commenced a career in advertising in 1958 as a mail boy in the Sydney office of J. Walter Thompson and after five years took a creative role at Berry Currie Advertising. Five years hence he was the Creative Director at that agency. In 1968 together with his Art Director partner Dunc McAllan, he started his own agency in Sydney and the pair soon teamed-up with Rob Palmer and Mike Strauss who had an existing small Melbourne shop with media buying accreditation to start Singleton, Palmer and Strauss, McAllan. SPASM opened with offices in Sydney and Melbourne.

Life-size bronze statue of John Singleton by sculptor Linda Klarfeld

SPASM (and Singleton in particular) are notable in the history of Australian advertising for embracing an ocker voice in their communications at a time when multi-national agency groups were making their presence felt with the advent of strategic planning and British or American-imitating tones of voice.[2] SPASM's clients were largely local Sydney retailers and rather than using polished voices, Singleton's ads embraced the tone of working-class man. A successful campaign was created for the wholesalers David Holdings. The voice-over screamed the retailer's prices before the irritating catchphrase "Where do you get it?". Similar "low-brow" approaches were taken for Jax Tyres "Jax the Ripper Tyremen with the deals" and for Hudsons Timber and Hardware using a toothless old handyman spruiking "'udsons with an aitch". Critics derided this style as ocker advertising [3] but it would pave the way for the later success of the laconic and self-deprecating style of local Australian advertising such as that created by the Mojo agency in the 1980s.

In 1973 Singleton and his partners sold SPASM to the US Doyle Dane Bernbach and Singleton for a time was Managing Director of DDB's Australian operations. Working for a large multi-national with overseas owners was a challenge for Singleton and he left the business in 1977 triggering a long non-compete provision in his contract. In 1985 Singleton started up again on his own with "John Singleton Advertising". Sydney stockbroker Rene Rivkin bought a silent-holding in the agency during its development in the 1980s. Singleton developed close ties with the Australian Labor Party and created the advertising for Bob Hawke's successful 1983 election campaign. John Singleton Advertising listed publicly, became the Singleton Group Ltd in 1996, then grew to become the STW Communications Group Ltd in 2002 [4] which now owns over 50 Australian marketing and advertising businesses including the Singleton Ogilvy & Mather ad agency and holds an interest in J. Walter Thompson's Australian operations. Along the way Singleton acquired personal stakes in ventures including the 1990 buy-out of the Ten Group TV network from receivership and an acquisition in 2000 of Indonesia's No 3 network SCTV. These personal holdings in addition to the success and growth STW Group interests enabled Singleton to amass a massive personal fortune.[5]

Singleton was the initial Executive Creative Director on the Qantas commercials featuring a children's choir singing "I Still Call Australia Home" all over the globe. That campaign had been concepted by the Mojo agency in the 1980s but Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon famously called Singleton on Christmas Day 1997 to propose the children's choir performance having seen them on Carols by Candlelight the night before.

Businessman & associates

Singleton has been listed in Business Review Weekly's Rich 200 list, and his investments range from radio (being the majority shareholder in the Macquarie Radio Network, which comprises radio stations 2CH and 2GB ), hotels (he is a major investor in the Australian Pub Fund), horse-racing training and publishing. Along with Seven Network, Singleton is half-owner of The Matty Johns Show.[6]

Along with his friend, Gerry Harvey, Singleton owns the Gold Coast-based thoroughbred sales company Magic Millions. Singleton is firm friends with his radio employees Alan Jones and Ray Hadley.


He is well known as a larrikin in Australia for his love of good times, evident in his buying drinks for the entire Rosehill racecourse in Sydney after his horse won the Golden Slipper. Singleton played for Lane Cove Rugby Club during the 1970s. He has been a supporter of Australian working-class icons, such as the rugby league football team, the Newtown Jets.[7] Singleton also owns the Bluetongue Stadium on the Central Coast which was originally built for the North Sydney Bears rugby league team and now hosts the Central Coast Mariners A-League team. Singleton helped fund the 2007 independent film The Final Winter of which the Newtown Jets are the subject.[8]

Singleton became a Member of the Order of Australia in 1994 for his charity fundraising.[1] In 2009 Singleton was included in the inaugural 12 inductees to Ad News Magazine's, Australian Advertising Hall of Fame [9]

Personal life

He has eight children from six marriages. He has been married to Margaret Wall (Jack born 1970), Maggie Eckardt, Belinda Green (Jessie born 1982, Sally born 1984), Liz Hayes, Jennifer Murrant - de facto (Joe born 1992, Hannah born 1994) and Julie Martin (Dawnie born 1997, Summer born 1999, Daisy born 2005).[10] His partner till 2011 was Yvette Hartman.[11]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Blackman "Post War Advertising in Australia"
  3. ^ History of Sydney Advertising
  4. ^ Listing history
  5. ^ Singleton's Advertising Age profile 2002
  6. ^ "Matty Johns gets chop from Dally Ms" by Dean Ritchie for The Daily Telegraph 26 August 2010
  7. ^ Toby Creswell and Samantha Trenoweth (2006). 1001 Australians You Should Know. Australia: Pluto Press. p. 422. ISBN 978-1-86403-361-8.
  8. ^ Garry Maddox (1 September 2007). "A league of his own". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia: Fairfax Media. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-30.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Ad News Hall of Fame
  10. ^ The six wives of Singo, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 July 2002
  11. ^ Is John Singleton in seventh heaven?, The Daily Telegraph, 28 July 2009,,25843156-5013560,00.html

External links

  • Original Singo 27 July 2002
  • History of Sydney Advertising
  • Blackman "Post War Advertising in Australia" 1997
  • Singleton's Advertising Age profile 2002

Further reading

  • Stone, Gerald (2002). Singo: Mates, Wives, Triumphs, Disasters. Harper Collins.
  • Crawford, Robert (2008). But Wait, There's More: A History of Australian Advertising. Melb Univ. Publishing.
  • Tungate, Mark (2007). Adland: A Global History of Advertising. Kogan Page Publishers.
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