A quiet achiever and unsung hero – J-Wire
September 16, 2022 by Alan Slade
Read on for article
Jack Howard Ritch was born during World War II in Glasgow on 11th December 1941, the first child of Doris and Eddie Ritch.
His brother Paul followed in 1947. Jack remembered Glasgow as a lovely but very cold place, where one of his jobs was to wrap the water pipes at home in newspaper to stop them from freezing.
When he was 10, the family migrated to Sydney. They dropped their bags in the apartment a friend had organised in Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach, and walked over the road to the beach. Jack recalled the cultural contrast every time he passed the building.
Jack attended Bondi Beach public school, from where he qualified for the selective Sydney Boys High, where he made lifelong friendships. It was during his teenage years that he became involved in Jewish and other communal organisations.
In 1958, on finishing his leaving certificate examinations (since replaced with the Higher School Certificate), he started at the AMP the next Monday. He studied Economics at Sydney University in the evenings.
For what would become a legendary career, spanning 50 years, he had a rocky start. Given the job of filling inkwells, in his first week, he dropped an ink bottle, smashing it on the floor. It seemed to many he wouldn’t amount to much. It would have been interesting to see the expression on their faces when, in 2014, the Property Council of Australia, of which he was president from 1990 to 1992, declared him a “legend” of the industry.
He went on to hold a variety of senior positions, but his greatest passion was realised when he was appointed the Director of Property, responsible for overseeing and building what was Australia’s largest property portfolio, going on to become Managing Director and Chairman of AMP Capital. His intuition, knowledge, experience and tenacity were the main cause of AMP’s ability to survive the 2008 global financial crisis. He was also instrumental in establishing China’s insurance industry post the Whitlam rapprochement, resulting in his close relationship with China’s finance minister and other high officials.
Throughout his career, he took on multiple Chairmanships, including AMP Aged Care, Galileo Property Trust Japan, Melbourne and Launceston Airport corporations, the South-East Asia Property Company, and the Shopping Centre Council of Australia. He was also the inaugural National President of the Property Council of Australia.
Jack’s everlasting legacy, shared with former Lord Mayor Frank Sartor, to Sydney is the Angel Place Recital Hall. How he achieved it is an amazing story, a summary of which Jack gives at
Throughout his life Jack Ritch was a passionate supporter and active board member of philanthropic organisations, including the Joseph Varga School, catering for children with autism spectrum disorder, Birthright Australia, caring for single-parent families and Keshet Eilon, a music centre in northern Israel, close to the Lebanon border, for talented string instrumentalists, Arabs and Jewish Israelis as well as international students.
He was especially good at accepting challenges, one of which was to head the fledgling Powerhouse Museum Foundation, at the invitation of the Powerhouse’s then director Dr Kevin Fewster, who wroteL “For someone to have worked right up through a major organisation, from filling inkwells to head of world-wide property and investment is something unlikely to happen again. Even more impressively, Jack retained warmth and genuine concern for his colleagues that is probably very rare in the higher echelon of business circles.”
Jack had a special way of connecting with anyone with whom he interacted. In every sphere of life, family, friends, and work, he had a positive impact on everyone.
His opinion was forever being sought out for guidance and advice on big decisions, whether personal or commercial, especially where the two came together and a moral compass was needed. He was renowned for his high EI (emotional intelligence).
A former work colleague told his son, “Your dad always gave everyone a fair hearing.” Another wrote, “No one in corporate Australia was as respected as much as Jack.”
For all his vocational and communal achievements, however, his greatest pride was his family.
He married Diana de Berg in 1965, with whom he had three sons. Their relationship was close and loving until his final breath on August 24, 2022.
Jack Ritch is survived by his wife, Diana, their three sons and daughters-in-law, David and Julie, Antony and Lara, and Simon and Zoe, and seven grandchildren.
Born: December 11, 1941, Glasgow
Died: August 27, 2022, Sydney