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Looking Around the Corner

Matthew Smith and Therese Smith standing in front of the Queen's Hotel, The Strand

Looking Around the Corner: The Gleeson Family Legacy

In the early 1960s, an eager young businessman recognised an imminent tipping point in the shape of commercial television. His progressive mindset led him to build the first television station in Northern Australia and go on to lay the foundations for The Gleeson Group.

Considered the ‘father of television’ in Northern Australia, Jack Gleeson began his career in radio as a technician, where he learnt about the business of communications and sales which culminated in his eventual acquisition of 4AY Radio in the1950s.

After purchasing stakes in NQTV (which went on to become TEN Network Holdings Ltd), Jack played a key role in bringing commercial television to Townsville in 1961, making it the first town north of Brisbane to get television reception.

Almost 16 years later, he purchased the iconic Queens Hotel and established the family-office known as The Gleeson Group. Four decades on, the baton has been passed down to the next generation of Gleesons, in particular his youngest daughter Therese Smith.

“Dad was quite the entrepreneur, ”reflects Therese, who took over as Managing Director of The Gleeson Group in 2014.

“He was the one who initially approached other local businesspeople to become shareholders and help finance NQTV. He had this incredible foresight and could always see around the corner for the next big thing.”

Prior to her appointment as Managing Director, Therese spent many years running her own business which she remarks put her in “good stead” to take on her current role.

“Coming from a customer-facing business, a lot of skills were very transferable, but it was Dad who really taught me the importance of having a values-first approach in business,” she continues.

“He knew that resilience was required for doing business in Townsville, as it comes with its own set of unique challenges.

“He also knew everyone’s name in the company. He was just that type of person. So that respect and alignment of values was something I learnt very early on as being the key to achieving win-win situations.”

Whilst the family has since sold their ownership with TEN Network Holdings, Jack’s contribution to the radio and television sector didn’t go unnoticed, with him receiving an Order of Australia for his service and commitment to the industry in 1985 and a Queensland Greats Award in 2015.

As for Jack’s grandson Matthew, the gravity of his grandfather’s legacy is not lost on him. It’s something he carries with him through his own investment company, Menninger Capital; the name of which was inspired by an old paperweight of Jack’s.

“Grandad had this paperweight he made which sat on his desk and it contained a quote on it from Dr William Menninger,” explains Matthew.

“It read ‘No matter what your age or job in life, you are more mature if you have found a cause in which to invest your time and money for some social good. Through it you can achieve an outstanding characteristic of emotional maturity – the ability to find satisfaction in giving.’

“At this time, I was looking for a unique name for my company and the quote really resonated with me and embodied the direction I wanted to take the company, so Menninger Capital was born.”

The company, which resides in the old 4AY Radio building on Flinders Street East, has become successful in its own right, establishing itself as one of North Queensland’s premier investment management and corporate advisory companies.

Their boardroom has since become home to the infamous paperweight, acting as a constant reminder of the company’s ethos. But it is Jack’s philanthropic mindset that continues to inspire Matthew throughout his business journey.

Jack Gleeson holding a radio
Jack Gleeson, Northern Australia’s ‘father of television’

“Grandad was constantly giving back to the community whether that be volunteering with St Vincent De Paul, fundraising for organisations or helping renovate the Sacred Heart Cathedral,” adds Matthew.

“This strong sense of giving-back was something we witnessed from a young age and has shaped us personally and also influenced the way we conduct business.”

This community-focused mindset still takes precedence at The Gleeson Group today, with the company continuing to invest in multiple projects that are critical to the growth and economic development of the region.

One of their most notable projects is The HIVE development, a catalytic, multi-staged project connecting The Strand to the CBD, with a focus on supporting science, heritage, arts and culture in North Queensland.

Currently in the first phase of development, the $250 million project plan, which covers18,000 square metres, includes the construction of a five-storey commercial building which will house the new headquarters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Future stages of the development approval include a cultural precinct and concert hall, commercial spaces, restaurants, residential apartments, and the refurbishment of the heritage-listed Queens Hotel.

“There’s no doubt that this end of Flinders Street has been ready for development for some time, and we’re excited that the first stage of this project is finally coming to life,” says Therese.

“As citizen investors, over 75% of our family reside here and we are focused on The HIVE being a placemaking project with a legacy for future generations to enjoy.”

While Jack passed in 2018, it’s evident that his presence is still very much alive within the walls of the Queens Hotel. His legacy continues to live on through his five children, 14 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

Now at a time where The Gleeson Group continues to evolve, it is clear Jack’s forward-thinking philosophy will always be at the forefront of the business.

“I’m very aware of the younger demographic and ensuring we can provide them with reasons to stay here in Townsville,” adds Therese, when asked about her vision for the city.

“For us, it’s about looking around the corner for those opportunities, just like Dad did, and working towards making Townsville and our region a hive of interconnectivity and growth for the generations to come.

Main image: Matt Smith and Therese Smith standing in front of the Queen’s Hotel.

Image credit: Sonia Warrell – Hello Muse Photography

Georgie Desailly

Georgie Desailly

Georgie is BDmag’s resident writer who is passionate about entrepreneurship, sustainability and regional affairs. She spent time studying in New York City where she was trained by some of the world's leading journalists at The School of the New York Times.
Georgie Desailly

Georgie Desailly

Georgie is BDmag’s resident writer who is passionate about entrepreneurship, sustainability and regional affairs. She spent time studying in New York City where she was trained by some of the world's leading journalists at The School of the New York Times.