Peter Clemenger

27 November 2012

When the John Clemenger agency opened its doors in Melbourne in 1946, the 18-year-old Peter Clemenger was there as office boy and co-founder. More than 60 years later he is still a director of Clemenger BBDO, after standing down as chairman in 1998.

The Clemenger Group now comprises 43 companies with more than 1600 staff and billings of over $1.7 billion. It overtook George Patterson as Australia's largest communications group in the 1990s.

Peter Clemenger, supported by his brother John, was the driving force behind the success - a shrewd and determined businessman who brilliantly managed the delicate balancing act of keeping clients and staff happy. “He is a relentless and tough competitor,” said former Clemenger executive Cam Carter in 1988. “He engenders extreme loyalty and respect from those around him, be they staff, clients, ex-employees or his industry peers.” Uniquely, market leadership was achieved while still retaining local control.

Majority ownership remains with the directors and staff, and Clemenger gladly states that no American has ever sat on the board, apart from Jim Moser when he was managing director of the Sydney office.

He is especially proud of the way ownership has been transferred to more than 400 staff. He now holds less than two percent of the agency himself.

Peter Clemenger has made many contributions to the advertising industry, but is also recognised in other fields. He was the founder of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival and was heavily involved in the Melbourne bid for the 2000 Olympics. He is a notable patron of the arts, establishing foundations and grants at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Victorian Arts Centre.

In 2001 he was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for service to business and commerce in Melbourne, to the development of tourism, and to the community.