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John Olsen joins lobbying firm


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Former Premier John Olsen’s life just gets busier: barely a week after taking over the role of Chairman of the Stadium Management Authority from Ian McLachlan, Olsen is set to hang out a shingle at lobbyist firm Bespoke Approach.

The high profile firm was founded in 2008 by former Federal Government ministers Alexander Downer and Nick Bolkus, and PR identity Ian Smith.

Downer had served in the Howard Liberal government and Bolkus in the Hawke and Keating Labor governments. Both are still prominent figures in their respective political parties.

Downer is due to leave South Australia after being appointed Australia’s 26th High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

John Olsen will take up the “conservative role” at Bespoke.

“I’m joining them as a special adviser,” he told InDaily today.

“Effectively, my role is to take over Alexander’s role within the business, but not as a full partner.

“It will be an interesting involvement and I look forward to the challenge.”

Bespoke’s clients include SkyCity, Lend Lease, submarine builder ASC Pty Ltd, Santos and Genesee & Wyoming Australia.

InDaily understands Downer will maintain his part-ownership of the high-end corporate advisory firm, but will have no operational role in the business.

He has also placed his Adelaide Hills home on the market.

Olsen was a state and federal member of parliament for more than 20 years.

He lost the 1985 and 1989 elections to Labor Premier John Bannon, who these days serves on the board of the South Australian Cricket Association, one of the joint tenants of the Adelaide Oval.

After the losses to Bannon, Olsen moved to federal politics where he served in the Australian Senate between 1990 and 1992.

With Bannon’s popularity diving in the 1992 aftermath of the State Bank collapse, Olsen returned to state politics at a by-election.

He lost a leadership bid to factional rival Dean Brown who became premier when the Liberals won the 1993 election in a 37-10 seat landslide.

In 1996, Olsen successfully challenged Brown’s leadership sparking an ongoing factional war.

He resigned as Premier in October 2001 following an adverse report from an inquiry into his arrangement with the Motorola company which revealed that Olsen had misled parliament.

His political comeback has been long and strong since Prime Minister John Howard appointed him Australian Consul-General to Los Angeles and, in 2005, as Australian Consul-General in New York.

He initiated the tourism promotional events G’Day USA.

As President of the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) he was a key player in the negotiations with cricket for the Adelaide Oval Redevelopment.

Under that deal, cricket and football rotate the chairmanship of the Oval’s Stadium Management Authority.

When former SACA President Ian McLachlan ended his term last week, Olsen took over the role.

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