Reg Grundy was an Australian television mogul, entrepreneur and passionate wildlife photographer.
Hundreds of Australian actors got their start in TV on a show produced by the Reg Grundy Organisation, which he founded in 1959 and has now morphed into FremantleMedia.
Among the shows Grundy was responsible for bringing to the small screen were Division 4, Matlock Police, The Restless Years, The Young Doctors, Prisoner, Sons And Daughters and, the jewel in the crown, Neighbours.
He was also expert at picking the best US game shows and making them successful in Australia.
Blankety Blanks, Wheel Of Fortune, Sale Of The Century and Perfect Match all made household names of their hosts Tony Barber, Glenn Ridge, Baby John Burgess and Greg Evans.
Grundy was so well known his name became part of Australian slang.
It was quite common in the 1980s and 1990s for Australians to refer to their underwear as “Reggies” or “Grundies”.
Grundy’s wife, actress and author Joy Chambers, once said he was proud his name had become part of the Aussie vernacular.
Born on August 4, 1923, in NSW, Reginald Roy Grundy was the only child of working-class parents Roy Grundy and Lillian Lees, who met in a chocolate factory on the cusp of the Depression.
He left school at 15, served in the army during World War II and worked as a ladies sportswear buyer for department store David Jones.
He started working in radio as a sports commentator, specialising in boxing, for 2SM Sydney. He also did voice-over work for cinema advertiser Chas E Blanks. While working at 2CH Sydney in 1957 Grundy developed and hosted the radio show Wheel Of Fortune.
Later adapted for television, it debuted on TCN9 on September 1, 1959, with Grundy as host. His first wife, Lola, doubled as production assistant and hostess. But Grundy was never confident in front of the camera and soon moved behind the scenes, founding The Reg Grundy Organisation.
By the 1970s, Grundy’s was a force in Australian TV, producing the bulk of locally made television and game shows. Grundy also co-produced ABBA: The Movie in 1977.
“I had probably 3000 people working for me at the highlight of my career, and I loved them, I think they loved me too,” Grundy said at the launch of his biography in 2010.
Throughout his leadership, Grundy controlled and owned all the shows he produced. He wanted it known how he and his team led Australia “out into the world” by showing Europe how to make TV shows economically and quickly.
“This is a pretty important part of my story because we thought we were as good or better than the people making programs in those countries, and we really did educate Europe,” he said.
In 1995, for $320 million, he sold out to Pearson Television, which is now known as FremantleMedia.
In 2014, Grundy was 58th on the annual BRW Rich List, with an estimated fortune of $766 million.
In 2015 it estimated his wealth at $809 million. Grundy married Chambers in 1971. She had featured in several Grundy soaps, including The Restless Years, The Young Doctors and Neighbours.
For the past three decades they lived mostly in Bermuda. There Grundy indulged his passion for photographing wildlife, publishing books and staging exhibitions of his work. Grundy was also a serious art collector.
He and Chambers sold 89 pieces of work in Sydney in 2013 for $19.16 million, in what was then Australia’s most valuable single-owner art auction.
The Art Gallery of NSW paid $1.952 million for a John Brack painting, The New House, and $1.464 million for another, The Breakfast Table.
He was awarded an OBE in the 1983 Queen’s New Year’s Honours List and was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2008.
He released an autobiography in 2010.
Grundy died on May 9, 2016. He is survived by wife Joy and Kim Grundy, his daughter from his first marriage to Lola Powell.