Legendary Australian music industry identity Michael Gudinski is one of the few people in the world who has outsmarted Rupert Murdoch in business.
In his new book ‘Gudinski The Godfather of Australian Rock ‘n’ Roll’, author Stuart Coupe tells for the first time the story of Michael Gudinski.
The unauthorised biography (Gudinski did co-operate in a series of interviews for the book but was not involved with the final content except in a fact-checking capacity) portrays a ruthless but clever businessman who it totally loyal to the people who work with him.
Gudinski’s deal of the century was the sell-off of his Mushroom Records to Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd. Murdoch also owned Festival Records at the time. According to the book, Gudinski pocketed anywhere up to $70-80 million for the two-part sale, the second when the company was losing around $6 million a year.
“I was surprised when people opened up about the deals,” Stuart Couple tells Noise11.com. “The first one kind of made sense, Gudinski wanted to expand, Murdoch was interested. The second one was pretty flabbergasting to find a situation where you find a business venture that was haemorrhaging massive amounts of money but yet Gudinski managed with his advisors a situation where he got more for the second half of the company than they did for the first. People will look around and go ‘it was pocket-money for Murdoch’. Yes it is. Or as someone said ‘he wanted a bit of homework for James to do’”.
What many don’t understand is why Murdoch took the bit of the Gudinski empire that was losing substantial money but kept the cash-cows, which Michael has expanded his empire on such as Frontier Touring and Mushroom Publishing. “Gudinski made some very, very serious coin for getting rid of the least income earning aspect of his company,” Coupe says. “He gets rid of Mushroom Records, which is not exactly at the top of its game, and then he keeps Frontier Touring, Premier Harbour, the publishing company, the merchandising company, Basically he keeps everything that is making money and has consistently propped up the record label and gets a massive pay-out. I think it would be naive to think he didn’t know certain people were coming to the end of their contractual obligations and finding themselves wanting to resign with any other venture that he started post Murdoch sale”.
As Coupe points out in the book, to understand the deal “you have to think like a Murdoch”. “I don’t think that with the second sale to Murdoch it wasn’t just genius gameplay. Some people say in the book it was more cost-effective for News Ltd to buy out the situation than to continue the money haemorrhaging,” he said.
The only side of the Gudinski personality is the incredible loyalty he gives his staff and they to him. “One of his strengths is that he is ferociously loyal to people he believes in and will do anything for them,” Stuart says. “The history of Mushroom is full of him and the rest of the company persisting with artists that would have been dropped after their first or second record by any other company. He is very big on loyalty and if you are on Team Gudinski and have the mythical vibe, then you could not have a more determined person in your corner. Conversely, you would not want to have done anything to cross or annoy him”.
When you work around Gudinski headquarters at 9 Dundas Lane, Albert Park, it is incredible the number of faces you see who have worked with Michael for decades. “I was astonished to realize the number of people who have never worked for anyone other than Michael,” Stuart said. “I was talking to Brian Taranto, BT from Love Police and I said ‘so you’ve been around Gudinski for a few years now’ and he said ‘my first job was working for Michael in the 80s’. You don’t get a big list of people who have fired or have left and gone to other companies. If you are on Team Gudinski and you are doing the right thing by him, he will do the right thing by you”.
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