Legendary TV boss David Leckie remembered as the last rock star CEO

David Leckie made his name in an era when television network bosses were larger-than-life characters who could attract as much attention as on-screen stars. 

Leckie was a colossus of the industry, stomping across and through its landscape like a dinosaur – which is what some detractors thought he was. 

He was big, bold, brash and boisterous.

Often blistering and sometimes boorish. Harsh critics called him a bully boy but he could also be a charmer. 

Leckie was a noted drinker and prone to profanity, almost as well known for his long lunches as being one of few men to run two television networks. 

David Leckie came to fame in an era when television network bosses were larger-than-life characters who could attract as much attention as on-screen stars. He is pictured with wife Skye and sons, Harry (left) and Ben

David Leckie came to fame in an era when television network bosses were larger-than-life characters who could attract as much attention as on-screen stars.

He is pictured with wife Skye and sons, Harry (left) and Ben

Leckie was a fearsome drinker and prone to workplace profanity, as well known for his long lunches as being one of few men to run two television networks. He is pictured with presenter Johanna Griggs at Fleminton's Derby Day in 2004

Leckie was a fearsome drinker and prone to workplace profanity, as well known for his long lunches as being one of few men to run two television networks.

He is pictured with presenter Johanna Griggs at Fleminton’s Derby Day in 2004 

Leckie worked for Kerry Packer for two decades until he was sacked as chief executive of the Nine Network. He fell out with Packer's son James, who called him a 'raging f***wit' at Leckie's predecessor Sam Chisholm's 70th birthday party

Leckie worked for Kerry Packer for two decades until he was sacked as chief executive of the Nine Network.

He fell out with Packer’s son James, who called him a ‘raging f***wit’ at Leckie’s predecessor Sam Chisholm’s 70th birthday party

Sporting humourist Billy Birmingham immortalised Leckie’s boozing on one of his popular 12th Man comedy records. 

In the skit, urbane commentator Richie Benaud joined the then Nine boss for lunch and asked the waiter for water.

The waiter then asked Leckie if he would like another schooner of Drambuie. 

Some of those close to Leckie believed that behind the abrasive front he suffered from shyness; while at Nine he was known to mutter that no one really liked him. 

Beside him through most of it was his sparkling Sydney socialite wife Skye.   

Leckie, who has died aged 70 after a long illness, will be remembered as a titan of television who could inspire and terrify in equal measures but was impossible to ignore.

Early in his tenure as Nine boss Leckie attended film screenings in Cannes where he gave a speech in which he called the audience a bunch of ‘freeloaders’.

He went on to describe the French Riviera as like the Gold Coast, ‘only with p***-poor beaches’. Only Leckie could get away with it.

Some of those close to Leckie believed that behind the abrasive front he suffered from shyness; while at Nine he was known to mutter that no one really liked him

Some of those close to Leckie believed that behind the abrasive front he suffered from shyness; while at Nine he was known to mutter that no one really liked him

As his longtime lunching partner and former Nine news boss Peter Meakin has said: ‘At least with Leckie you won’t die wondering.’

Seven’s current chief executive James Warburton described Leckie as ‘inspiring, engaging, loud, passionate and famously difficult at times.’

‘Without a doubt he was the best TV executive this country has ever seen and an important influence and mentor for so many people and careers,’ Warburton said. 

‘He was once labelled the last of the rock star CEOs and I’d say that was a pretty good description.’

Leckie began as a sales executive at GTV-9 in Melbourne and by 1982 was nine’s sales director in Sydney.

He became managing director of the network in 1990 and chief executive in 1994.

As Nine boss he built on the work of predecessor Sam Chisholm, notably introducing the two wildly successful Footy Shows and lifestyle programming.

After two decades working for Kerry Packer, who sacked him in 2001, 바카라사이트추천 Leckie moved to Seven where he helped the network take the top-rating mantle from Nine. 

Seven's current chief executive James Warburton described Leckie as 'inspiring, engaging, loud, passionate and famously difficult at times.' He is pictured in 2011

Seven’s current chief executive James Warburton described Leckie as ‘inspiring, engaging, loud, passionate and famously difficult at times.’ He is pictured in 2011 

His parting with the Packer family was spectacular and final.

Leckie was in charge of Seven when Today Tonight ran a series of unflattering stories about Kerry’s son James, who famously confronted Leckie at Chisholm’s 70th birthday party in 2009. 

‘My father was right, you are a raging f***wit,’ James reportedly told his former friend.

‘Now f*** off.’

Leckie continued his indiscreet ways at Seven, once declaring at a dinner for the network’s flagship drama program Blue Heelers that the show was ‘boring’.

He was joined at Seven by Meakin as head of the network’s news and current affairs.

Meakin described their relationship as ‘mostly reliant on mutual abuse’.

Meakin once told the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘He’s a guy who enjoys conflict’. 

Leckie also brought in charity fundraiser wife, who had been known as ‘Mrs Channel Nine’, to direct the interior design of his Seven office. 

But he was solely behind removing management files from an office recess and installing a bar.

Leckie began as a sales executive at GTV-9 in Melbourne and by 1982 was nine's sales director in Sydney. He became managing director of the network in 1990 and chief executive in 1994

Leckie began as a sales executive at GTV-9 in Melbourne and by 1982 was nine’s sales director in Sydney.

He became managing director of the network in 1990 and chief executive in 1994

Skye Leckie, born Skye McLeod, claimed her husband named the hit drama series McLeod’s Daughters after her. 

She has said she married her match in Leckie.

‘He would say working for Kerry Packer was scary, being married to me was scarier,’ Skye told the Wentworth Courier.

The pair met at a Nine network Academy Awards lunch – she thought he was ‘some sales guy or whatever’ – and he proposed at the Lowell Hotel in New York over Christmas lunch.   

‘We were having an argument and he said, “Oh shut up” and he handed me a briefcase and said, “Will you marry me?”‘ she recalled.

The Leckies were legendary hosts. Parties at their onetime Centennial Park home featured billionaires, prime ministers, and major figures from the arts. 

Leckie took Seven past Nine in the ratings with a string of hit programs in the mid 2000s, including Lost and Desperate Housewives. 

In 2008, he was placed in an induced coma after battling complications from an infected finger injury, but recovered well enough to return to work. 

Leckie met his future wife Skye MacLeod at a Nine network Academy Awards lunch - she thought he was 'some sales guy or whatever' - and he proposed at the Lowell hotel in New York over Christmas lunch

Leckie met his future wife Skye MacLeod at a Nine network Academy Awards lunch – she thought he was ‘some sales guy or whatever’ – and he proposed at the Lowell hotel in New York over Christmas lunch

Entertainment reporter Peter Ford described Leckie as one of the country's legendary TV bosses. 'He had the perfect mix of business acumen and showbiz flair'

Entertainment reporter Peter Ford described Leckie as one of the country’s legendary TV bosses.

‘He had the perfect mix of business acumen and showbiz flair’

He was chief executive of Seven under billionaire owner Kerry Stokes until 2012 when he stopped down. 

James Packer said then he had been loyal to Leckie for years but his former friend had kicked him when he was down.  

‘David Leckie was a great TV executive, full stop,’ James told the Australian Financial Review at the time.

‘Maybe the best Australia has produced.

‘But that was one of his few redeeming features. He ran Nine for ten years as No 1, and got moved on.

‘He took Seven from No 2 to No 1, and got moved on. Why am I being hard on him today?

Because that’s exactly what he did to me.’

Leckie was moved to a role as executive director of Seven West Media, but his days in control of a network were done. 

‘This is the end of a swashbuckling era where chief executives were colourful characters,’ Chisholm told the AFR.

‘He is a figure that has bestrode the television industry. It will be the poorer without him.’

Columnist and author Peter FitzSimons said Leckie was 'an unreconstructed, unvarnished man - but a legendary tv executive of his tiime'

Columnist and author Peter FitzSimons said Leckie was ‘an unreconstructed, unvarnished man – but a legendary tv executive of his tiime’

Leckie stepped down from Seven West Media in 2014 and moved into a consultancy role.

A slimmed-down version of the old warhorse emerged the next year, off the grog. 

He took several years away from the spotlight to concentrate on his health before coming out of retirement in March last year to help reinvigorate Seven once more. 

Warburton, who had quit the network in 2011 after clashing with Leckie, welcomed him on board.  

Shortly after that appointment as a part-time program consultant Leckie was back at his old haunts at Woollahra, the Hotel Centennial and Bistro Moncur. 

Leckie’s family released a statement about his death in the Southern Highlands on Tuesday morning. 

‘With immense sadness: David passed away at Mulberry Farm, Robertson, after a long illness this morning.

He was surrounded by his loving family.’

Seven’s Sunrise host Kylie Gillies broke down when she heard the news live on The Morning Show. Her co-host Larry Emdur recalled being ‘hired and fired by him many times.’

‘A real titan of our business,’ Emdur said.

‘Boy, has that man left a mark in the business. That will affect the entire industry today across all networks.’