Mitchell takes time out to 'retire'

Harold Mitchell, a self-made man with a way with words, is retiring from his day job after being at the "edge of change" for 40 years.

Harold Mitchell, a self-made man with a way with words, is retiring from his day job after being at the "edge of change" for 40 years.

From August 10, Mr Mitchell will no longer serve as executive chairman of Aegis Australia and New Zealand. It's a position he recently described as being a "bit like a gynaecologist - you try to have a holiday and someone says, 'Don't you know my baby is due?' "

Long described as one of Melbourne's most powerful people, Mr Mitchell told BusinessDay he would keep his board positions. He doesn't count how many he has, but they span sport, philanthropy and casino company Crown, which hosted his 70th birthday last year.

"People continue to ask me to do many, many things," Mr Mitchell said. "Life will continue. I've been doing things forever that people say they'll do when they retire." Mr Mitchell will leave 54 years to the day since he left the Victorian town of Stawell for work as an office boy in a Melbourne advertising agency.

With an "intense motivation to make something" of himself, Mr Mitchell started his own media company, Mitchell & Partners, in 1976. This spanned an "extraordinary half century of mass media and personal global networking ... from Bakelite radios and crystal sets, to digital TV and global roaming on free phones".

During the decades, he cut deals with the Murdoch, Packer, Fairfax and Stokes families, which he credits with helping Mitchell & Partners grow into Australia's biggest media and communications company.

"Australians are probably the best in the world in having partnerships and trust," he said.

Mitchell & Partners was sold to UK-based Aegis a few years ago for $363 million. He took stock and Aegis was in turn swallowed by Japanese media giant Dentsu - a sale that underpinned BRW's estimates that Mr Mitchell was worth $370 million. It's a figure on which he won't be drawn.

Beyond his business, there's been writing - an autobiography titled Living Large and a column for Fairfax Media - plus lap-band surgery and philanthropy.

He recently donated $12.5 million to Victoria University to establish a health and education policy research institute and also owns cattle stations. At 71, there's still plenty to do.

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