May the force be with you: Brian Walsh colleagues on working with the spirit of Foxtel

Brian Walsh

‘Brian’s legacy goes beyond TV, beyond business – it’s about empathy, humility and respect’

After our items about the passing of Brian Walsh we ran on Friday, Mediaweek today publishes this collection of memories from just some of the many people who worked with the long-time Foxtel executive.

Michael Miller, executive chairman, News Corp Australia (Note sent to all staff)
Today we heard the terribly sad news that someone many of us knew and loved, Brian Walsh has passed away.
I know, like me, many of you will be shocked and saddened by the news of Brian’s passing.
Many of us here at News have worked closely with Brian on various projects and admired his passion and commitment to whatever he was working on.
“Legend” is an often overused term but Brian was exactly that, and the roll call of the shows and stars he has worked with is a testament to his impeccable vision and sterling career.
As importantly, he was a dear friend who made time for people and connected with many. He will be missed and our thoughts are with our colleagues at Foxtel, his friends and family.-

Kim Williams, who has served as chief executive of Foxtel and News Corp Australia, and worked closely with Walsh for seven years, told The Australian’s Alan Howe that Walsh a “promotional genius”.
“I don’t think anyone in television was ever as gifted with a reservoir of promotional ideas and stunts and lateral thinking in relation to getting public attention to our individual programs,” Williams said. “He was astonishing.” Sport and rock music have had an awkward relationship, with corny songs sung by soccer and baseball teams usually ending in embarrassment all around. But Williams said Walsh had reinvented the public image of rugby league with his Tina Turner-led Simply the Best campaign in the ’90s.

The Australian reported News Corporation co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch said Walsh had such a big impact on so many people throughout his career.
“Brian was a good man, a great friend, and a televison genius,” he said.
“His passing is a tremendous loss to all those who loved him and to the industry he helped shape over the last 40 years.”

Social media posts since Brian’s passing have included the following. (This only scratches the surface of the many, many tributes.)

Patrick Delany, Foxtel CEO:
Today, along with the entire creative industry, we are mourning the loss of Brian Walsh. He was a pioneer in Australian television and a long-time mentor, confidant, colleague, and unwavering friend to many. Over the 28-year history of this company, there are very few decisions, content moves, commissions, and promotions that did not involve Brian. He started with the company before we were on air in 1994 and has continually been with us since then leaving a lasting impact.
In an era where so many media executives try to make the story about themselves, Brian led the way to make sure it was always about others creating many careers and franchises that endure today.

Mark Frain, chief executive officer, Foxtel Media:
A friend, work colleague of 1000s people across his 28-year Foxtel history and the broader creative industry. When I first joined Foxtel, Walshie was always there to guide, support and provide creativity like no other. Iconic figure, legend, content bible, there are not many that leave such a rich, deep legacy.

Peter Tonagh, company chairman and former Foxtel CEO:
Truly devastating news today of the loss of an Australian television legend, the most loyal of colleagues and the dearest of friends.
In every career there are only a handful of colleagues that create a truly lasting impact. For me Walshie was one of those. He taught me all that I know about TV, he supported my decisions even when they were tough for him and he inspired me with his passion for great content and great content creators.

Victoria Buchan, director of communications and public relations at Nine Entertainment:
Brian leaves an enormous powerful legacy we can all continue, caring for and nurturing our industry each other with loyalty and supporting excellence. I will miss him so much but our memories will continue to inspire.

Fiona Lang, general manager, BBC Studios, Australia
I have been so saddened to hear of the passing of Brian Walsh, a truly influential figure in the Australian TV industry. Many of us at BBC Studios have had the pleasure of working with Brian over the years. His passion, creative talent and astute business sense shone through in everything he did and he will be greatly missed by us all.


Brian Walsh

Photo: Michele Mossop


Benjamin Pyne, president, global distribution at Disney Media Networks
So sorry to hear this about a legendary figure in Australian tv. My condolences to his family and his extended family at Foxtel and throughout the world of media. He will be missed by us all.

Rebecca Tabakoff, former Foxtel corporate affairs manager, now director at Temple Executive Search:
It was never about him. He taught me so much – the most valuable lesson was to be direct and ask for what you want. I can still hear him saying “Come on! Out with it! I know you’re here because you want something!” He was right and he always delivered.

Kylie Merritt, former Sky News and News Corp executive, founder and managing director at ausbiz:
My thoughts are with the Foxtel family today Patrick Delany, he really was the heartbeat of the business, and just such a good person.

Melissa Hoyer, writer and commentator, former Foxtel TV host
Cannot quite believe he has gone. Don’t know where to start. A very, very close friend and mentor, Brian Walsh was always there for sooo many. Never one for accolades, he much preferred being behind-the-scenes and he was loyal to the enth degree.
I first met BW when I first worked in the media in the mid 80s – and we have remained the best of friends ever since. He really was a voice of reason – I would go to him with every work conundrum let alone every crazy idea I had for Foxtel.
And even more importantly, away from work, we always the absolute best fun.
He worked so hard, but he always had time to catch up with his mates.

Jaynie Seal, Sky News Australia anchor
A TV genius. In total shock of the news of his passing. Brian had your back and believed in you. Incredible loyalty and passion for the industry. He had respect for everyone and understood the entertainment industry like no other. I am so grateful to have known him my entire life and wish everyone who knew him so much love. A mentor.

Annette Sharp, News Corp columnist
I too am grateful to Brian Walsh for not once but twice recommending me for jobs and playing a key role in nurturing my career.
The first time was in 1989 when, having met me while he was heading up Ten Publicity and I was editing The Illawarra Mercury’s entertainment lift-out, Walshie and then Nine Network publicity director Sue Ward, recommended me to then features editor of The Sunday Telegraph Fran Hernon for a role editing that paper’s TV guide, TV Extra.
I took the job and moved to the big smoke, Sydney, from Wollongong.
Then about 18 months later he played a key role again when Nine and Ward approached me with an offer to work for TCN-9 as a publicist which, among other things, involved a weekly meeting with the Wide World of Sports’ production team (and what a team it was in those days) and Walshie’s newish private enterprise The Promotions Department.

Petrina Avins, director and producer with time spent at Foxtel, Seven and Endemol Shine Australia:
In the blur of time after my daughter died, the hospital reception patched a call through, “We have a Brian Walsh on the phone for you”. He was the first person brave enough to call me. I’ll never forget it, or his words. Or his kindness in the months and years that followed. Brian had been my boss for 15 years or so. He was tough as nails when he needed to be. But always there when you needed him to be. He was a remarkable man.

Kane Guglielmi, director and producer, Darkwood Entertainment:
Brian was one of the few execs who gave me the time of day when I was starting my career. Years later he’s the one who had the conviction to give my film Cooped Up a domestic home at Foxtel. He came to the premiere by himself to support me. A real gentleman. A true leader. And a rare character who had creative conviction that was not led by trends. We can all learn something from this humble man. You will be missed, legend.

Jim McKay, founder/president & Global Media Rights
Brian weaved magic in an industry which is so frequently conservative. He was willing to think and act outside of the box. An industry icon indeed. Vale Brian Walsh – your achievements live on.

Russell Wolff, executive Vice President and GM, ESPN+
So sorry to hear about Brian. Thinking about all of you.

Armando Núñez, former chairman, advisor, ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group; Chief Content Licensing Officer
Truly one of a kind. RIP Walshie.

Jacqui Abbott, executive director – group communications, Foxtel
Three years ago I met Brian Walsh for the first time. I was there to discuss a role at Foxtel Group but I left with a mentor and a friend. My dad had just died and Brian had just released his latest commission, The End. We discussed how time spent in end of life facilities is not for the faint hearted and changes you forever. It’s why The End was a story untold. And so begun the last few years of working together on countless premieres and so many incredible shows.

Brendon Moo, head of marketing and communications at National Association of Testing Authorities, Australia and long-time former Foxtel channel manager and Nine head of publicity
Just devastated to hear of the sudden passing of entertainment doyen, legend, friend and mentor Brian Walsh. “Walshie” or “BW” was the Biggest Star in the Milky Way of a galaxy of stars and entertainment industry heavyweights. So many people, myself included, owe our careers to him, and his caring thoughtful, at times brutal, but always nurturing guidance and wisdom. He is bar none the best in the business and I am so grateful to have been in his orbit and worked under him for more than 13 years at Foxtel Group.

Emma Hogan, secretary for digital, & NSW department of customer service and former executive director – customer experience at Foxtel
We worked together for 9.5 years. He was a force to be reckoned with throughout and he knew TV like no other.
He valued loyalty above all else and he loved his team. He was a king-maker both for those on screen, and for those behind it.
BW was generous with who and what he knew. Thanks to him I met Hugh Jackman in New York, and once, in a story for another time he helped me hide Cate Blanchett in the kitchen of the Opera House so that we could surprise our then boss Kim Williams for his 10 year CEO anniversary. There are so many stories.
He truly loved entertainment and spent almost all of his life promoting and delivering that to others.
When I left Foxtel in 2016 he was involved in throwing me an epic farewell party, where he brought my favourite cast members of Wentworth up from Melbourne as a surprise. Walshie didn’t do things by halves.

Sasha Mackie, senior director, marketing and communications – Australia and New Zealand, Warner Bros Discovery and former head of marketing at Foxtel
Having worked with Brian for >11 years and the support post leaving Foxtel, the lessons from B.W. continue – he has taught us all what true legacy is.
No one has control on how they’re going to be remembered but it’s the countless interactions that went unseen that are now being shared. Brian’s legacy goes beyond TV, beyond business – its about empathy, humility and respect. It’s about motivation and inspiration and the truth. It’s a conversation I think we need more of.

Darren Chau, senior director – head of production, ANZ, Discovery Inc
Brian gave me my first job as a television executive, hiring me to head up programming and production for the Comedy Channel and later a suite of entertainment channels. They were 5 incredible years. We launched channels, made dozens of television shows, discovered and developed a heap of talent and grew audiences. It’s fair to say that we didn’t always agree and shared many robust discussions and debates – and to his credit, this is something he encouraged. When I once had the crazy idea of acquiring 692 episodes of a 30-year-old show called Prisoner – nobody believed it would work. However Brian backed me and its success resulted in the commissioning and creation of Wentworth. There are just so many of these stories in his long career.

Simon Burke, actor
Oh Walshie, how in the name of God are we supposed to imagine a world without you in it? Every single time you’ve breezed into my life over the past 40 years you’ve brought with you such unbelievably generous helpings of love, laughter, validation, support, advice, care, challenge and above all loyalty. Not to mention untold raucousness all over world. Your friendship has always meant the world to me, and I truly don’t know what I’m going to do without it.

See also:

“The Australian TV industry has lost a titan”: Tributes flow for Brian Walsh

Remembering Brian Walsh: Icon of the Australian entertainment industry

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