By Zoe Samios
Seven West Media’s billionaire chairman Kerry Stokes said there won’t be an executive like David Leckie again because the world is now “too woke”.
“No company would have the flamboyance that David brought. I doubt we’ll see his like again in executive roles today,” Mr Stokes said in a tribute on 7News after the former Seven and Nine boss died after a long illness.
He’s almost certainly correct. Unconventional, loyal and at times ruthless, Leckie left a mark on the Australian media industry. His larger-than-life character and the stories that came with it are celebrated by long-time friends and former associates.
“A kitchen sink will do the trick” - as told by Seven CEO James Warburton
“David was Sydney sales director and he was negotiating with Clemenger. It hard been a hard negotiation and there was lots of back and forth - it was frustrating him and he wanted to find a way to close it. So, on the way to the negotiation meeting he stopped by the hardware store and bought a double basin stainless steel kitchen sink - the biggest they had available.”
”You can imagine the site of Leckie getting into a cab with a double kitchen sink and standing in reception at Clemenger holding the thing in his suit and tie. He was greeted and ushered into the boardroom where the Clemenger negotiating team were sitting poised with spreadsheets and calculators. He strode in, thumped the kitchen sink on the boardroom table with an almighty whack and said “listen here you f---wits, I’ve given you everything I can in this negotiation, so here is the kitchen sink as well. He walked out. Needless to say that deal got done later that day.”
A tea-bag auction, as told by high profile real estate agent James Dack
“I remember going into his office at Channel 9 and he showed me around. He bought a house from me and he wanted me to bring the contract in for him to sign it. He asked me if I still did auctions and I said “yeah”.
He said “do you want to do one on the midday show?” He rang the producer of the midday show who had already booked an auctioneer to auction Kevin Costner’s teabag who earlier had tea in the Channel 9 canteen. Ten minutes later I’m on the set of the Midday Show auctioning a teabag in front of a live studio audience.”
Leckie’s Super Bowl problems, as told by former Seven boss Tim Worner
“We went to the Super Bowl as guests of Disney. We all went on a bus and David wanted to sit where the chaperones were supposed to sit right up the front. He rang me as I was right down the back of the bus to tell me everyone on the bus was a d---head except the driver.”
“The rugby is boring”, as told by Seven’s top lawyer Bruce McWilliam
“The rugby union came in with CEO Gary Flowers and some internal people from IMG early in the morning to meet David. Gary said to David: “And how can the rugby help you David?”
“David said: “Could you take your sport to another network? It’s boring and it doesn’t rate.”
What he really thinks, as told by Worner and McWilliam
“David saw the (Australian) US consul general at L’Orangerie restaurant in LA. David said loudly to him right in front of Kirk Douglas and the whole family including Renee Zellweger: ‘You were a f--ing terrible premier’.“
Leckie’s editing advice, as told by former News Limited boss John Hartigan
“I will miss the editing advice he used to give me, particularly in one case when we was arguing the lack of news merit related to him being pulled over for a DUI on his way to work. I also won’t miss his advice on farming skills - this from the very bloke that admitted to be that he couldn’t even close the front gate.”
"I’ve got five minutes," as told by James Warburton
“There was very large client of Seven who had been having problems with their products and were copping negative coverage in the media and from our programme Today Tonight. The client with bravado and confidence kept telling us that they demanded a meeting with the CEO, David, to let him know that this was not acceptable and that there millions of dollars were at risk. The call was set, the client had spent hours developing their script and were ready to roll.
David came on the phone and said: 'Hi Leckie here. I know you are going to yell at me. I have five minutes so I will be quick. If you keep your business here with us I can’t promise you anything other than balanced and fair reporting, in fact I reckon I can help you do better PR than whoever is helping you now - they’re hopeless. If you take your business away from Seven I will tell my team to take the gloves off and we will smash you. Anyway I’ve got to go, let James know which way you want to go. Nice to meet you goodbye'. I can confirm as exasperated as the client was they kept their business with Seven.”
An elevator stop, as told by former Seven news director Peter Meakin
Perhaps Leckie learnt from the best. "On one occasion, Leckie spent an hour with his old friend and former colleague Peter Meakin being berated by Kerry Packer. After it was over, Packer went to get the lift and when it opened it was full. He held the door, looked at the staff, and said: 'You people be kind to this man [David]. He’s had a bad day.'"
A Christmas cockatoo, as told by former Seven Melbourne chief Lewis Martin
“[Former Prime owner] Paul Ramsay invited some of us at Seven for Christmas Eve dinner held in his apartment above the Shangri-La. The Ramsay choir was performing and there was a huge cockatoo in a cage. David was swearing at the top of his voice. The cockatoo loved it and started mimicking David: It shrieked ‘f off’ ‘f off’ every time the choir tried to sing.”
A taste of Argentina goes overboard, as told by Bruce McWilliam
“Seven and Prime hired the Silver Whisper - a luxury ocean cruiser as there was no accommodation. It was moored in Piraeus Harbour.
“David and Paul Ramsay were having a lovely bottle of wine on the stern of the boat. Paul had just bought a TV network in Argentina which was a disaster. The network lost the soccer rights. Paul sold it for a huge loss.”
“Paul asked: ‘What wine is that David?’”
“‘Argentinian,’ he said. Paul picked up the bottle and flung it overboard, sending the security people below crazy as they were monitoring for terrorist activities. A frogman came storming into the boat holding the bottle”.
David will punch him, as told by Skye Leckie and Bruce McWilliam
“I remember when David was in the induced coma. One of David’s brothers was holding his hand and rubbing his arm tenderly. The Leckie brothers never showed emotion. Skye said: ‘Geez if David wakes up, he’ll punch him.’”
A refusal of defeat, as told by everyone
“David always said he’d ring the bell when Seven was at the bottom (financially), but he never did. After each new disaster he’d say: “‘oh dear, but I’m not ringing the bell.’”