John Singleton (Australian entrepreneur)

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John Singleton

Singleton in 2010
Born (1941-11-09) 9 November 1941 (age 82)
EducationFort Street High School
Years active1958–present

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, and later also had diverse investment interests in radio broadcasting, publishing and thoroughbred breeding and racing. On 13 April 2024, Singleton’s daughter Dawn was one of the six people killed in a mass stabbing at Westfield Bondi Junction.

Early life

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

Advertising career

Singleton commenced a career in advertising in 1958 as a mail boy in the Sydney office of J. Walter Thompson. In 1963, he took a creative role at Berry Currie Advertising, and later attaining the role of Creative Director. 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) which 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.[1] 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 a haitch". Critics derided this style as ocker advertising[2] 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 Mojo in the 1980s.

In 1973 Singleton and his partners sold SPASM to 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 1987 election campaign.[3] In 1995 Singleton Group Limited was listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.[4] In February 2002 it was renamed STW Communications Group.[5]

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.[6]

In 1994 Singleton purchased 2CH from AWA followed in 1996 by 2GB from the Wesley Mission.[7][8] Having been merged into Macquarie Radio, in 2019 Singleton sold his shareholding to Nine Entertainment.[9]

Honours and awards

In 1994 Singleton was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the community through his own personal support and fundraising activities more broadly.[10] In 2000 Singleton was awarded the Australian Sports Medal.[11] In 2009 Singleton was included in the inaugural twelve inductees to Ad News magazine's, Australian Advertising Hall of Fame.[12]

Personal life

Singleton (right) and Australian Olympic swimmer Geoff Huegill (left) in 2010

Singleton has eight children from seven marriages. He has been married to Margaret Wall, Maggie Eckardt, Belinda Green, Liz Hayes, Jennifer Murrant - de facto, Julie Martin,[13] and Sarah Warry.[14] His daughter Dawn was killed in April 2024 during a mass knife attack at Westfield Bondi Junction.[15]

Net worth

Year Financial Review
Rich List
Australia's 50 Richest
Rank Net worth (A$) Rank Net worth (US$)
2010[16] $230 million
2013[17] $355 million
2016[18] 155 $416 million
2017[19][20] $450 million Increase
2018[21][22] 161 Increase $534 million Increase
2019[23] 145 Increase $670 million Increase
2020[24] 142 Increase $728 million Increase
2021[25] 147 Decrease $731 million Increase
2022 170 Decrease $768 million Increase
2023[26] 171 Decrease $820 million Increase
Icon Description
Steady Has not changed from the previous year
Increase Has increased from the previous year
Decrease Has decreased from the previous year


  1. ^ Blackman. "Post War Advertising in Australia". Australian Public Intellectual Network.
  2. ^ Crawford, Robert (2008). "History of Sydney Advertising". The Dictionary of Sydney.
  3. ^ How the winners got the accounts Australian Financial Review 12 February 1993
  4. ^ End of an era: WPP AUNZ to exit ASX at end of business today Mumbrella 21 May 2019
  5. ^ Results of EGM Singleton Group Limited 8 February 2002
  6. ^ Singleton, John (1941-) Ad Age 15 September 2003
  7. ^ Singleton short circuits 2CH News Sydney Morning Herald 20 April 1994
  8. ^ Singleton's media dreams and schemes Australian Financial Review 13 March 2004
  9. ^ "Singo sells out of radio". The Australian. 23 September 2019. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Member of the Order of Australia (AM) entry for John Desmond SINGLETON". Australian Honours Database. Canberra, Australia: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 10 June 1994. Retrieved 12 November 2020. AM/FOR SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY THROUGH PERSONAL SUPPORT AND FUNDRAISING ACTIVITIES FOR CHARITABLE, SPORTING AND RESEARCH ORGANISATIONS. QUEEN'S B'DAY 1994
  11. ^ "Australian Sports Medal entry for John Desmond SINGLETON". Australian Honours Database. Canberra, Australia: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 25 October 2000. Retrieved 12 November 2020. Outstanding supporter
  12. ^ "Australian Advertising Hall of Fame". Ad News Hall of Fame. 2009. Archived from the original on 13 February 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  13. ^ [ Original Singo Sydney Morning Herald 27 July 2002
  14. ^ John Singleton, 82, on to his seventh wife after ditching his carer ex 11 December 2023
  15. ^ Josefine Ganko, Sarah McPhee, Daniella White (14 April 2024). "Bondi Junction stabbing live updates: NSW Police identify Joel Cauchi as attacker; John Singleton's daughter among multiple dead in Sydney's eastern suburbs". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 April 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Mayne, Stephen (2 November 2020). "The Mayne Report Rich List". The Mayne Report. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  17. ^ Mobbs, Adam (31 October 2013). "Racing's super-rich owners in a race for Melbourne Cup glory". Herald Sun. Melbourne. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  18. ^ "Radio millionaires in BRW Rich List". Radio Info. 27 May 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  19. ^ Stensholt, John, ed. (25 May 2017). "Financial Review Rich List 2017". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  20. ^ Mayne, Stephen (26 May 2017). "Mayne's take: The top 25 Australian billionaires, as claimed by Fairfax". Crikey. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  21. ^ Stensholt, John, ed. (25 May 2018). "2018 AFR Rich List: Who are Australia's richest people?". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  22. ^ Young, Andy (25 May 2018). "Industry big guns named on AFR's Rich List". The Shout. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  23. ^ Bailey, Michael (30 May 2019). "Australia's 200 richest people revealed". Australian Financial Review. Nine Publishing. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  24. ^ Bailey, Michael; Sprague, Julie-anne (30 October 2020). "The full list: Australia's wealthiest 200 revealed". Australian Financial Review. Nine Publishing. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  25. ^ Bailey, Michael; Sprague, Julie-anne (27 May 2021). "The 200 richest people in Australia revealed". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
  26. ^ Bailey, Michael; Sprague, Julie-anne (26 May 2023). "The 200 richest people in Australia revealed". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 6 June 2023.

Further reading

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