According to Jones’ friends, the eight weeks he had on the farm helped cement his decision to follow medical advice and quit, but he wanted to have a hand in how his succession would play out, and that did not include handing over to Hadley.
Fordham, 43, who spent his school holidays in radio studios and worked his way up in the business for nearly 30 years, was given Jones’ imprimatur. Fordham is the son of Jones’ long-term confidante the late John Fordham and brother of Jones’ current manager Nick Fordham.
Before he agreed to anything, Fordham called Jones to hear for himself if the manoeuvring was on his terms.
“Alan gave Ben his blessings, and from there it was a done deal, Alan is happy Ray doesn’t get his old slot, and quite frankly Ray is happy to see how it plays out from afar,” a source close to the radio stars told PS this week.
Indeed the deal was so swift, PS can reveal Fordham is yet to sign a contract recognising his new gig, which is due to kick off in two weeks.
Friends say father-of-three Fordham’s “head was spinning” after 72 hours of negotiations.
Insiders have also revealed that Fordham and Malone are mates from private school Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview. The pair are heralding a generational change at 2GB and repositioning its format, with plans to create radio that “is not just for old people”.
But they are bracing themselves for how Jones’ legion of listeners will react, and are said to be expecting ratings losses.
And while Fordham, a seasoned journalist who has ventured into television, will inherit Jones’ timeslot, he won’t be getting his pay packet, with his new deal said to be worth much less than the $4 million a year package Jones was on.
“If they put Ray into breakfast it would stuff up two of the top shows, it just didn’t make sense. It’s smarter to keep Ray where he is. Putting Ben into breakfast was far more effective economically, and it’s not just about ratings. The revenue from Ben’s show is strong, the advertisers like the show … he’s not as polarising as Alan has been of late,” the insider revealed to PS.
Fordham intends to take his team of four producers with him, which leaves a question mark over the six staff who work on Jones’ show, some having done so for several decades.
Also up for grabs is Jones’ office, which was described to PS this week as “lavishly appointed” and is understood to house a vast treasure trove of hard copy files filled with correspondence between Jones – who does not use a computer – and many powerful names. This is where the all-powerful radio presenter would spend many hours running his empire. Jones’ radio offices have been the subject of much mirth over the years, like the time at 2UE when Jones’ then manager, the late Harry M. Miller, accused station management of treating his client with less respect than his stablemate, John Laws.
An incensed Miller grabbed a tape measure to prove Laws had been given a larger office than Jones. It turned out Jones’ quarters were the same size as Laws’; he just had more furniture, making it look smaller.
New project for Stefanovic
Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and … Karl Stefanovic?
“Complete rubbish,” according to Stefanovic when PS asked him about reported plans to launch himself into Hollywood.
“My hands are kinda full at the moment anyway,” the resurrected Today host explained, referring to the birth of his fourth child, a little girl Harper, delivered by his second wife Jasmine two weeks ago.
And while Today has received a pummelling in the ratings, six months since the show launched with Stefanovic and Allison Langdon at the helm he says he remains committed to the long-term success of the show.
However Stefanovic’s multimillion-dollar contract with Nine is due to expire in December, making the next six months critical in terms of how those negotiations pan out.
In the interim PS can reveal Stefanovic is re-creating himself as something of a showbiz producer, establishing a production company called Eight in which he has partnered with his recently appointed new manager Mark Morrissey – who also looks after Chris and Liam Hemsworth – and Richard Weinberg, husband of Westfield heiress and billionaire Monica Saunders.
“We believe there is a gap in the market for smaller productions, we have a lot of ideas we want to pitch to Nine … and yes I have a few Hollywood heavy hitters among my friends, and it would be a bonus if something was picked up there too, but our main focus is local,” Stefanovic said.
So what can we expect? Stefanovic has been doing a series of variety shows on Instagram, each running for just a few minutes and featuring gags (and canned laughter) from the likes of Richard Wilkins and radio personalities Ryan Fitzgerald and Tim Blackwell.
He firmly believes the concept could be developed further, despite a lukewarm reception.
Stefanovic also copped considerable flak for his appearance last week on youth-focused web show Live At Club Dunni, though Stefanovic said it was “all about reaching out to a different audience … there is a big audience watching that stuff that are not watching mainstream TV, you’d be mad not to try and tap into that”.
Lock moves on
While global fashion juggernaut IMG licks its wounds with the cancellation of this year’s Australian Fashion Week – the man who started it all, Simon Lock, is not wasting any tears.
This week he launched the first large-scale digital showcase of Australian wholesale collections via a partnership with the Australian Fashion Council.
US fashion bible Women’s Wear Daily reported Lock’s five-year-old business-to-business virtual showroom platform Ordre was presenting 20 Australian designers to its global database of 8000 fashion buyers.
With designers each paying around $1000 to have their wares on the platform, it begs the question of what the future of the real-life Fashion Week is, considering designers such as Camilla Franks and Pip Edwards (of PE Nation) have spent $100,000 or more staging their shows.
And could it spell the end of the runway front row?
Maggi Eckardt, ‘the girl you want to see’
When the glamorous young Maggi Eckardt finally stepped off the gangway following her long voyage to England from Australia, the budding model, dressed in her finest DIY creations, caught the eye of an unlikely admirer: a seagull, which proceeded to defecate all over her.
For years Eckardt would rejoice in retelling the tale of her arrival in 1958, playing down the start of what would actually become one of the most astonishing fashion careers achieved by any Australian.
Once in London she modelled gowns at Norman Hartnell’s salon, recalling how nervous she was when the likes of Princess Alexandra came in to view the creations, clumsily curtseying much to the amusement of the regal visitor.
After six months having gowns pinned on her that would ultimately be worn by Queen Elizabeth II and Audrey Hepburn, Eckardt plucked up all the courage she had and marched into the offices of British Vogue, declaring, “I’m the girl you want to see”.
“I was in the right place at the right time. After a few shoots and covers it snowballed,” she would later recall.
Last week Eckardt died, aged 82, following a short illness. Still working as an interior designer, Eckardt had continued to live a vibrant life, creating a glamorous home in Redfern and working with a select group of clients.
But it was Eckardt’s time as a top international model that she will be remembered for most, along with her own television variety show, and a high-profile marriage to a young, brash advertising executive named John Singleton.
Eckardt, Singleton’s second wife, once recalled how he sent her 12 dozen roses – not for any particular occasion, simply as a spontaneous gesture straight from the heart.
“Who does that? Whoever else does that? Do you?” she demanded during an interview in 2002, annoyed at being asked too many questions about her former husband’s drinking, his fights, his attention to other women.
“He is the most invigorating, wonderful person to be with, passionate, honest and generous with his thoughts. And he is lovable. I have to say that of my memories of everything we did and enjoyed together, it was the most fabulous time of my life.”
Friends would later say Eckardt and Singleton could be lots of fun but a blazing row was never far away. They had an unerring instinct for pushing each other’s buttons.
There was the infamous dinner party Eckardt prepared poolside at their Rose Bay home when Singleton, getting more and more drunk, kept leaping into the water and returning to his seat dripping all over her tasteful settings.
“John, you’re wrecking the table!” she finally admonished. “Right, wreck the table!” he chanted in a zombie’s voice. And did, upending it in front of their six guests.
Eventually the marriage failed, but even in more recent years Eckardt and Singleton remained friends. One of her Sydney acquaintances told PS this week: “That was Maggi, she was all class.”
Andrew Hornery is a senior journalist and Private Sydney columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.