Eye on Alumni Nicholas Gray | Law

Eye on Alumni Nicholas Gray

UNSW Law caught up with Nicholas Gray [BCom LLB ‘97], a former investment banker, general manager and publisher. CEO of The Australian since May 2013, we got to know the man behind the newspaper a little better. Mr Gray will be moderating UNSW Law’s Look Who’s Talking in February that will look at The Law: Driving or Obstructing Technological Innovation?

What do you do?

I’m the Chief Executive Officer of The Australian.

Describe your career path after university.

In a word: unstructured. I did accounting and law degrees but decided after university I didn’t want to be an accountant or a lawyer. Six years in investment banking (in Sydney, London and Japan) provided a range of intensive corporate experiences at a young age, but in the end I didn’t like being a hired gun and was drawn into the corporate world doing strategy for Lion Nathan. Buying and selling breweries for a few years was great fun, and sealed my love of consumer businesses. From there it was four years at Ninemsn as Chief Financial Officer and then Sales Director, as well as a couple of years running Alan Kohler’s Business Spectator until it was bought by News Corp, and now The Australian.

What drove you into working in media? You spent some time in banking after completing your degree, was a move toward media always part of the plan?

It was totally unplanned. Once I joined Lion Nathan I realised I would probably spend my career in consumer businesses – the parallel between beer and media is they are categories about which people are passionate and opinionated. Media is tough but also great fun – an unbelievable privilege.

Name one smart move you’ve taken in your career so far.

A few times I have taken what on face value was a sideways or backwards step to have a new experience. The most notable was moving from CFO to Sales Director at Ninemsn. It was technically a demotion, but meant managing a larger team and taking on revenue responsibility. The lessons from that were priceless, and you can only do that in a business you have been in for a while. It’s an argument for hanging around a bit.

What is your greatest achievement?

For me work is a whole lot of achievements and experiences but doesn’t have those true pinnacle moments in the same way my personal life (getting married, having kids) has had. I feel privileged to be in a job I very genuinely love, having enjoyed the journey and worked with many wonderful people along the way, many of whom I am still close to.

What is your favourite memory of UNSW Law?

Undoubtedly the time spent with my group of friends. At no time in my life, before or since, did I make as many good friends as I did at Law School. Intelligent and interesting people, who I am still in touch with, doing all sorts of wonderful things (professionally and personally) twenty years on.

Funniest?

It wasn’t funny at the time, but I jumped into the threshold of the lift in the law school, splitting my head and ending up at Randwick Medical Centre. Witnesses assure me it was amusing.

Who are you most influenced by?

A range of people: my wife, my family, my friends, my bosses. I try to draw influence from a wide range of people, but ultimately decide for myself, and trust my instincts.

Where or who do you live with?

I live with my wife (Michelle) and sons (Christian and James) in Redfern, not too far from Eddy Ave, from which the 891 bus used to take me to upper campus.

What’s your energy level like?

Pretty high I think, though over time I have had to make changes (less mid-week alcohol, more exercise) to keep it that way. My young sons are incredibly tiring yet energising.

What do you wish you could have told your younger self?

Take more calculated risks. In almost all cases failure will be less likely and the downside will be less impactful than you would imagine.

What’s next for you?

Life is good, so I hope more of the same for the next little while. Longer term, who knows? I am very open-minded!