Anthony Simonds-Gooding
Anthony Simonds-Gooding
A view from David Puttnam

Lord Puttnam: 'Simonds-Gooding was an honourable man in a dishonourable period'

The Labour peer and former Collett Dickenson Pearce account man pays tribute to Anthony Simonds-Gooding, who died last week.

A few thoughts on my friend Anthony Simonds-Gooding (pictured, above)

The most infuriating thing about this incredibly quick-witted Irishman was that, no matter how hard you tried, it was impossible ever to be as great a friend to him as he was to you! At his zenith there was a scale to his generosity of spirit that dwarfed everything around him. In fact Anthony was in every sense a ‘big’ man; throughout an era in which so much else was allowed to shrink.

He was an honourable man who encountered a particularly dishonourable period in the relationship between government, the media and the communications industry more generally. After a aseemingly effortless rise to the top as the very youthful marketing director of Whitbread he found himself absorbing a fair number of mid-career body-blows.

Rather than look back in anger, he threw his immense experience and energy into transforming the fundraising ambitions of Macmillan Cancer Support

These included trying to pull together the various warring elements of ill-matched acquisitions made by the Saatchi Brothers in the mid-80s; followed by his brave attempt to make a success of the Thatcher Government’s "hospital pass", as chief executive of British Satellite Broadcasting. I’m not sure he ever fully recovered from the level of duplicity and betrayal displayed by the then Tory government in its determination to cement an over-close relationship with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

The fact that a subsequent Labour government choose to pursue a similar path came as no surprise to him – by then he’d given up on the notion that the principles he’d been brought up with might, insome way, extend to the political sphere.

Rather than look back in anger, he threw his immense experience and energy into transforming the fundraising ambitions of Macmillan Cancer Support. Throughout all these vicissitudes he was underpinned by pride in his incredibly close family; his relationship with the love of his life, Marji, was the stuff of which a thousand novels have been written.

He later discovered a serious aptitude for painting – a family trait that had earlier established the brilliant career of his sister Maria. In 2010 his extraordinary contribution to public life was finally recognised by the award or a richly deserved CBE.There was one additional piece of wonderful circularity. At Whitbread he became the client every ad agency dreams of – always seeking more and betterwork.

In 1992 all of that passion and expertise morphed into his work in effectively "re-inventing" D&AD, establishing its now global reputation as the organisation that best celebrates and symbolizes one of the great success stories of his lifetime: the British advertising industry. For that alone, Anthony deserves to be long remembered. 

Lord Puttnam is a Labour peer and former film producer, who worked alongside Charles Saatchi and Sir Alan Parker at Collett Dickenson Pearce in its glory days in the 60s