Sunday 22 September 2019

Obituary: Anthony Simonds-Gooding

Kerry artist was better known as a game-changing ad-man and marketeer, writes Liam Collins

CHEERS: Anthony Simonds-Gooding
CHEERS: Anthony Simonds-Gooding

Anthony Sim­onds-Gooding, who has died in London at the age of 80, was a Dublin-born marketing executive who spent the early and latter part of his life in Kerry.

In retirement he devoted himself to painting local characters he met in pubs, at fairs and race meetings, but he is also credited with creating a major shift in British drinking habits when, against negative feedback from focus groups, he approved the Heineken advertising campaign that claimed to "refresh the parts other beers cannot reach", influencing a UK consumer switch from ale to lager.

He also established British Satellite Broadcasting in Britain at the beginning of the modern television revolution, with the support of then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Following his death on October 16 of sinus cancer, Anthony Simonds-Gooding, was described by the management of The Towers Hotel in Glenbeigh, Co Kerry as "one of the funniest and most charismatic and hugely talented people to come through the doors of the hotel."

Local people described 'Tony' and his wife Marjorie as "the life and soul of the party" - no matter where the party was.

In another posting, a boules association near London recalled his legendary garden parties where, when he was chief executive of brewers Whitbread, he would emerge from his garage with wheelbarrow-loads of drink to entertain the assembled.

His mother was Irish and his father, Hamilton Simonds-Gooding - known universally as 'The Major' - was from a military family who returned to live in Kerry after Indian independence.

He was the elder brother of renowned Dingle-based artist Maria Simonds-Gooding.

Anthony Simonds-Gooding was proud of his Irish heritage. He was born in Dublin on September 10, 1937 and went to junior school here before attending Ampleforth public school in England. He later attended the Royal Naval College, spending holidays in India or at the family home in Dooks, near Killorglin.

After buying himself out of the navy he joined Unilever as a frozen food salesman, rising to marketing executive and creating the successful Captain Birds Eye campaign for fish fingers.

He was eventually head- hunted to British brewers Whitbread, where he rose to the position of chief executive following the success of his lager campaigns.

He joined Saatchi & Saatchi in 1985, claiming "Maurice (Saatchi) climbed through the window with a red rose between his teeth" to woo him. He was certainly thrown in at the deep end: in the book Powers of Persuasion, the story is told that on his first day the receptionist didn't know who he was, assigned him a dungeon office and no secretary, after which a huge bouquet of roses arrived from Maurice and Charles Saatchi with a note telling him "over to you" - they were going on holiday.

During the first year Saatchi staff increased from 4,000 to 14,000. With 'raffish' pin-striped suits and gaudy ties he soon established himself as one of the kingpins of the advertising business in London and New York -at a time when being one of the 'mad men' of the industry was both great fun and very lucrative.

He left the Saatchis in 1987, believing he had the "enthusiastic support" of Margaret Thatcher for the establishment of the first British satellite television service, BSB. Rupert Murdoch had other ideas and outmanoeuvred Simonds-Gooding by seducing Thatcher and the public by offering them his Sky satellite dishes directly, rather than through retailers.

Simonds-Gooding later admitted he was "bitter", particularly about "personal attacks on my family" which included publicity about his £400,000 salary in 1990 and his lavish spending on hospitality.

BSB eventually merged with Sky and Simonds-Gooding was shown the door.

He then became a very successful chairman of the British design awards agency, D&D, and was a leading campaigner for breast cancer charities, before and after his second wife Marjorie was diagnosed. He was also awarded the CBE in 2010 for his services to charity.

During all this time he and his family maintained their strong connection with Glenbeigh, where he kept a house and was a frequent visitor. The Simonds-Goodings were well known characters in the area and both served as president of the Glenbeigh Racing Festival: Anthony in 2008 and 'Marji', as she was known, in 2015.

Anthony followed in his sister's footsteps by taking up painting seriously in 1997 at the age of 60. "I always felt I had a talent, but no time to dedicate to it," he said.

"I had spent 30 years at business meetings doodling my colleagues' faces around the table. This, added to my affection for the Kerry countryside, has qualified me to concentrate on paintings of faces and places from the west of Ireland."

He used to say he was "at the bottom end of intelligent and top end of average" but "my problem is I've never done anything enough".

Anthony is survived by his first wife, Fiona, mother of their children Rupert, Lucinda, Dominique, Benedict, George and the late Harry, who died in a car accident at the age of 18. They divorced in 1982. He is also survived by his second wife, Marjorie, and his stepson, Daniel.

Sunday Independent

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