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Denison, Sun and Associated Newspapers


This profile considers the Australian Associated Newspapers, Sun Newspapers and Smiths publishing groups.


It covers -

  • introduction
  • Sun Newspapers and Denison
  • Joynton Smith and Smiths Weekly
  • Samuel Bennett
  • McIntosh
  • studies
  • chronology

Introduction

The vicissitudes of Sydney-based newspaper groups in the 1920s and 1930s offer a point of reference in considering contemporary moguls such as Maxwell, Black, O'Reilly, Ingersoll and Murdoch.

In particular they suggest that identifying (and meeting) market demands - particularly in a highly competitive environment is an ongoing challenge. Personal flamboyance, a capacity to bet the company on strategic expansion, and impropriety or outright fraud are similarly not traits restricted to the last two decades.

Sun and Denison

Industrialist Hugh Dixson (1865-1940) made one fortune when the Dixson family's tobacco interests merged with competitors in 1903 to form the British Australasian Tobacco Co Ltd, later acquired by the British American Tobacco (BAT) conglomerate and a precursor of groups such as Coca-Cola Amatil and WD & HO Wills. Dixson changed his surname to Denison in 1907 after moving to Sydney, apparently to avoid confusion with uncle Sir Hugh Dixson.

In 1910 he established Sun Newspapers Company and acquired the ailing Sydney Australian Star, which he successfully relaunched as daily broadsheet The Sun to accompany the Sunday Sun. The group survived the bitter newspaper wars of the decade through clever promotion and innovation (eg the Sun was the first major Australian daily to run news on its front page). In 1922 Denison, who had been knighted in the preceding year, launched the morning Sun News Pictorial in Melbourne, competing with the Herald & Weekly Times (H&WT) under Keith Murdoch.

Murdoch failed in a bid to gain control of the Sydney Evening News, which was reconstructed as Samuel Bennett Ltd under the control of major Sydney retailers, and in 1923 Sun followed up by launching the Melbourne Evening Sun. Neither of its Melbourne papers were successful and in 1925 Denison sold them to H&WT, with other Melbourne assets going to James Joynton Smith.

In 1929 he formed Associated Newspapers through a merger of Sun and Samuel Bennett Ltd. The new group encompassed the Sydney daily Sun, Sunday Sun, Evening News, Sunday News, Woman's Budget, Sporting & Dramatic News, Daily Telegraph Pictorial, Sunday Pictorial, Newcastle Sun, Wireless Weekly and World's News.

In 1930 Associated acquired Smith's ailing Daily Guardian and Sunday Guardian (Smith and associate Robert Packer received preference shares) and the Arrow and Referee weeklies. The Sunday News and Evening News were closed. The Daily Guardian merged with the Daily Pictorial in 1931 as the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Guardian was absorbed by the Sunday Sun. Robert Packer became General Manager of Associated, with son Frank having a brief service as "office spy" before joining with former federal Treasurer Ted Theodore to form Sydney Newspapers Ltd.

In 1936 Associated transferred some interests - principally the ailing Telegraph - to Consolidated Press Ltd, controlled by the Packers and Theodore. That company was the predecessor of Australian Consolidated Press (ACP). The new owners had more success with the Telegraph, notably through investment, and leveraged that success through launch of the Evening Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph.

In 1953 Associated (which had by then spun off its Newcastle interests, closed some titles and converted the Sun to a tabloid) was acquired by Fairfax.

Joynton Smith and Smiths Weekly

James Joynton Smith (1858-1943) gained fame as proprietor of Smith's Weekly. In his youth he worked as a pawnbroker's assistant, cabin boy and ships cook. In 1886, after gambling away profits from operation of a pub he became founding Secretary of the New Zealand Cooks' & Stewards' Union, subsequently moving to Sydney where he managed a temperance hotel and in 1896 acquired the lease of the Imperial Arcade Hotel.

The business prospered sufficiently for Joynton Smith to purchase the Imperial Arcade for £147,500 in 1924 and acquire hotels in Sydney and the Blue Mountains (notably the Carrington Hotel). In 1917, after appointment to the NSW Legislative Council and prominence as a racecourse promoter, he was elected as Lord Mayor of Sydney.

He responded to defeat in the 1918 election by launching Smith's Weekly, with Robert Clyde Packer as manager. Packer and editor Claude McKay each received a one-third share in Smith's Weekly in 1921. Smith's Newspapers Ltd launched the Daily Guardian in 1923 and the Sunday Guardian in 1929, acquiring the Referee and Arrow after the collapse of Hugh McIntosh and Beckett's Newspapers Ltd. He had earlier taken a stake in radio station 2BL.

In 1930 he unloaded the loss-making Guardians to Associated Newspapers, retaining Smiths's Weekly and minor publishing interests but progressively liquidating his property holdings. The Imperial Arcade was sold for £600,000. In 1931 he bought Packer's preference shares in Associated. Smith's Weekly reached a peak circulation of over 300,000 in the mid 1940s but died in 1950.

Samuel Bennett

Samuel Bennett (1815-1878) migrated to New South Wales in 1841 under contract to the proprietors of the Sydney Herald. In 1859 Bennett and partner William Hanson (the Government Printer) acquired the Empire from creditors of Henry Parkes (later NSW Premier), relaunched as a morning daily in competition with the Fairfax's SMH. In 1860 they launched the Sunday Empire.

The Bennett-Hanson partnership dissolved in 1867, with Bennett launching the Sydney daily evening Evening News, followed by the weekly Town & Country Journal in 1870. Labour problems resulted in amalgamation of the Evening News and Empire in 1875.

Following his death the papers were operated as a family partnership before becoming a public company - S Bennett Ltd - in 1917 under the control of major retailers such as Soul Pattison and the Farmer family.

It merged with Sun Newspapers Ltd in 1931 to form Associated Newspapers.

McIntosh

Hugh McIntosh (1876-1942) - a prototype for Robert Maxwell - gained attention and a fortune as a fight promoter (notably through his film of the 1908 match between Tommy Burns and Jack Johnson), before acquiring Harry Rickards' Tivoli vaudeville circuit in 1912 for £100,000. In 1916 he acquired a controlling interest in the Sydney Sunday Times company, publisher of the Sunday Times, Referee and Arrow sports weeklies and other publications. After success with large-scale stage productions such as Chu Chin Chow he sold the Tivoli circuit (later acquired by JC Williamsons) and moved to Lord Kitchener's former estate at Broome Park in England, famously relaying its cricket pitch with soil imported from NSW.

He sold the Sunday Times, Arrow and Referee to Beckett's Newspapers Ltd (controlled by William Beckett) in 1927, having apparently treated the company as a personal cash dispenser. He bought the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney in 1928, apparently on promises. The Tivoli was in liquidation by the end of 1930, with McIntosh going bankrupt in 1932 after unsuccessful plans to breed angora rabbits at Broome Park, run a cake shop and promote fights.

A comeback through establishment of the Black & White Milk Bar chain - typically launched from a base in Fleet Street during 1935 - collapsed in 1938 after overexpansion.

Beckett's Newspapers Ltd foundered in 1929, with the individual papers closing during the next decade or passing to the control of Labor Newspapers (controlled by ex-premier Jack Lang) before being acquired by the Telegraph under the control of the Packer family.

studies

A concise account of Associated, Beckett and Smiths is provided by RB Walker's Yesterday's News: A History of the Newspaper Press in New South Wales from 1920 to 1945 (Sydney: Sydney Uni Press 1980).

There have been no major biographies of Bennett, Denison, McIntosh or Joynton Smith. Serviceable accounts are found in the Australian Dictionary of Biography Vols 3, 8, 10 and 12 (Carlton: Melbourne Uni Press). Joynton Smith's My Life Story (Sydney: Cornstalk 1927) was ghosted by Smith's Weekly editor Claude McKay, author of This Is The Life - Remember Smith's Weekly?: a biography of an uninhibited national Australian newspaper, born 1 March 1919, died 28 October 1950 (Adelaide: Rigby 1975) is a serviceable account by George Blaikie. A perspective on McIntosh is provided by Frank Van Straten's Tivoli (Melbourne: Lothian 2003).

Chronology

This chronology is indicative only. Context is provided by the broader communications and media timeline on this site.

1859 Hanson & Bennett launch The Empire

1867 launch The Sunday Empire

1867 Bennett launches Sydney Evening News

1870 launches Town & Country Journal

1875 The Empire closes

1885 Sydney Sunday Times established

1886 Referee sporting weekly founded

1892 Bennett family launches Illustrated Sydney News

1894 Illustrated Sydney News closed

1903 British Australasian Tobacco Co Ltd established with Hugh Dixon as Director

1906 Bennett family launches The Womans Budget

1907 Hugh Dixon changes name to Hugh Denison

1908 Hugh McIntosh organises world heavyweight boxing championship between Jack Johnson and Tommy Burns

1910 Denison forms Sun Newspaper Company, acquires Sydney Australian Star (relaunched as The Sun broadsheet)

1910 Bennett family launches The Week's News

1912 McIntosh gains control of Tivoli theatre circuit for £100,000 after death of Harry Rickards

1912 The Weeks News closes

1913 Denison becomes Managing Director of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd (AWA)

1915 McIntosh gains control of Sunday Times

1919 Sydney Sunday News launched

1919 Illustrated Sydney News closes

1919 Australian Town & Country Journal ceases

1919 Sydney Smith's Weekly launched by James Joynton Smith, with Robert Packer as Manager

1919 Smith knighted

1921 Denison knighted

1921 Musgrove gains control of Tivoli circuit

1921 Minahan launches Sydney Daily Mail

1922 Sun launches Melbourne morning Sun News Pictorial

1922 Herald & Weekly Times (H&WT) under Keith Murdoch fails in bid to control Sydney Evening News, which is reconstructed as Samuel Bennett Ltd

1923 Sun launches Melbourne Evening Sun

1923 Smith establishes Sydney Daily Guardian

1923 ailing Daily Mail absorbed by Labor Papers Ltd as Labor Daily

1924 JC Williamsons gains control of Tivoli circuit as Tivoli Vaudeville Pty Ltd

1924 Evening News pioneers crossword puzzles in Australia

1925 Melbourne Evening Sun sold to H&WT

1925 Daily Guardian launches Miss Australia contest

1927 Sydney Telegraph becomes Daily Telegraph News Pictorial (later Daily Pictorial)

1927 Sun buys Sydney Daily Telegraph News Pictorial

1927 McIntosh loses control of Sunday Times, Arrow and Referee to William Beckett's Beckett's Newspapers Ltd

1927 Beckett's Newspapers launches Beckett's Budget

1928 Bennetts launch Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News

1929 Beckett's Newspapers goes bankrupt

1929 Sun Newspapers and Samuel Bennett merge as Associated Newspapers

1929 Sydney Sunday Guardian launched

1929 receivers sell Beckett's Budget to Labor Daily Ltd

1930 Beckett's Budget relaunched as Australian Budget

1930 Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News closes

1930 Sunday Times ceases

1930 Sunday News ceases

1930 Associated Newspapers buys Smith's Daily Guardian and Sunday Guardian

1930 Associated buys weekly Arrow and Referee

1931 McIntosh goes bankrupt

1931 Daily Guardian merged with Daily Pictorial as Daily Telegraph

1931 Sunday Guardian absorbed by Sunday Sun

1931 Associated's Daily Pictorial and Sunday Pictorial cease

1931 Sydney Daily Telegraph launched by Associated

1931 Robert Packer becomes General Manager of Associated

1931 Evening News ceases

1931 Smith buys Robert & Frank Packer's preference shares in Associated

1932 Frank Packer and former federal Treasurer Ted Theodore form Sydney Newspapers Ltd

1933 Australian Women's Weekly launched

1933 Arrow ceases

1934 Woman's Budget absorbed by Woman

1935 Australian Associated Press formed

1936 Packer and Theodore's Sydney Newspapers acquires Daily Telegraph from Denison's Associated Newspapers (owner of Sydney), forming Consolidated Press Ltd - later Australian Consolidated Press (ACP)

1938 Labor Daily becomes Daily News

1938 Denison founds Macquarie Broadcasting Services Ltd

1939 Referee ceases

1941 Daily News taken over by the Daily Telegraph

1947 The Sun relaunched as tabloid

1949 Sunday Herald launched by Fairfax

1950 Woman's Day and Home merged

1952 Woman's Day sold to Herald & Weekly Times (H&WT)

1953 Fairfax buys Associated, becomes publisher of Sydney Sun newspaper

1953 Sunday Herald and Sunday Sun merge to form The Sun-Herald

1961 Fairfax buys 45% stake in Newcastle Morning Herald and Newcastle Sun