Many colourful tales had been written about media legend Sam Chisholm in recent days, and most of them were probably true, his daughter Caroline Jumpertz told mourners at his funeral on Friday.
“You can apply almost any adjective you like about Sam and it probably works,” she said in an emotional tribute which described a difficult but strong relationship with her father.
“He was a complicated, tenacious, charismatic man, who loved his family and truly appreciated his friends and who profoundly valued every single day of his life right to the end,” she said.
He died July 9, aged 78.
Both she and Chisholm’s widow, Sue, thanked the young anonymous donor and the medical team who had provided Sam with a double lung transplant in 2003.
“They gave us an extra 15 years to enjoy him,” Sue Chisholm said.
Channel Nine identities and former executives including Brian Henderson, Ian Leslie, Geoff Harvey, Peter Meakin, Brian Walsh, John Westacott and Chisholm’s successor running Nine, David Leckie, were among more than 200 people who packed St Swithun’s Pymble to see off the man who made them stars.
This was an appreciative crowd who knew Sam Chisholm’s strengths, his lethal foibles and brutal management style.
David Chance, who was Chisholm’s deputy, running BSkyB in the 1990s, got some of the best laughs when he spoke of Sam’s “unique approach to management incentive”, and when he tried to explain his “approach to interpersonal relationships”.
Even Rector Craig Potter, who gave the address, conceded, “he could be … a prickly character,” before going on to describe Chisholm’s generosity, which included recently throwing a 50th birthday party for him.
Chance said Chisholm’s legacy was the founding of a company which today was facing a takeover bid worth $50 billion.
“That’s the measure of his achievement,” he said.
Rupert Murdoch appointed Chisholm in December 2000 to run BSkyB, the nascent merger of News Corporation’s failing Sky pay-tv venture with its equally disastrous rival BSB.
Chance said Chisholm was prone to giving out free character assessments – his favourites involved references to “cast-iron whims”, “a 20-dollar haircut and a 10-cent brain” and offering “a penetrating glimpse of the obvious”.
Not all of these proffered insights were appreciated. But those who worked for him were intensely loyal, he said.
He described Chisholm’s lively disputes with regulators while running BSkyB, including one instance when Chisholm discovered that the official he was battling had a private interest in sheep. Chisholm resolved the dispute by proposing to set up a sheep channel on BSkyB, though the idea never went further.
Chance described being seriously ill for his 40th birthday, only for Chisholm to call him up and insist he was needed to sit through a rancorous meeting with a regulator, even holding a sick bag.
On the way home after the meeting, Chisholm took Chance to a pub, only to spring a surprise birthday party for him. The meeting had been a set-up, with the regulator in on the ruse, even acting out a mock dispute.
“Sam told me it was the only way he could be sure of getting me out of bed,” Chance said.
The crowd laughed. They recognised the Sam motto: losers have meetings, winners have parties.