The well-known Sydney agent John Fordham AM passed away on Sunday morning in the hospice of Sacred Heart, Darlinghurst, aged 75. Having contracted throat cancer three years ago, Fordham had fought hard against it.
As late as Saturday he had been still able to greet and chat to such old friends and clients such as Andrew Johns, Ian Chappell, Alan Jones and John Laws before late in the day dictating a strong letter to an employer on behalf of another client.
But in the early hours of Sunday morning his second son Nick — who had taken over the management company his father had founded and who had been keeping 24-hour bedside watch — called the rest of the exhausted family to come from their homes.
They came quickly: his wife of 40 years, Veronica, his artist daughter Sarah, and his eldest son, Ben, of 2GB fame. John was conscious enough to understand what Ben was telling him; because of his illness, the Governor-General had brought forward the awarding of his Order of Australia for services to media, sport and charity, and the family would hold some kind of ceremony to honour him even if he was not here.
With a return squeeze of the hand, the elder Fordham made clear that he understood and was happy. As dawn of Sunday came slowly, John started to go fast. As the family held each other around the bed, it was Sarah who said it, addressing him by his family nickname.
"Just let go, Jack, just let go."
Her father let go, and he passed away minutes later. His was an extraordinary life, starting with being the middle of two brothers who made their fame before him. His eldest sibling Bob was a highly regarded international rugby referee, before heading up the ARU. His younger brother David was a well-loved television sports journalist, who passed away himself from cancer a decade ago.
John Fordham first made his name doing public relations for Qantas before starting up his own celebrity management agency, concentrating on media and sporting identities, including this correspondent. Over the years he managed everyone from Jones, Laws and Chappell, to Richie Benaud, Tracy Grimshaw, Ricky Stuart, Paul Roos, Craig Bellamy, Sylvia Jeffreys and Lisa Wilkinson.
In business, Fordham played the game ruthlessly, driving hard to get the best contracts for his clients. Personally, he was unfailingly warm and engaging.
He did a great deal for charity, including establishing the Head and Neck Foundation two years ago, and it was that charity work which was the basis for the application made by his many supporters for recognition to become a Member of the Order Of Australia, which would have been announced on Australia Day. The family will host a gathering on Monday afternoon to mark that recognition and his passing, with the Premier and Prime Minister in attendance.
Vale, John Fordham. You made your mark.