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Media mogul and philanthropist James Fairfax dies

By Michael Finnigan

Australian philanthropist James Fairfax, who went from chairman of the eponymous media company to one of the country's greatest art collectors, has passed away at his home in Bowral. He was 83.

The second child of Sir Warwick Oswald Fairfax rose to prominence after he succeeded his father as chairman of John Fairfax & Sons in 1977, and subsequently led the group as it diversified into television, magazines and regional publications.

After a decade at the top, Fairfax resigned when his younger half-brother Warwick launched a takeover of the company—four years later the business went into receivership but was re-floated as Fairfax Media.

While the Fairfax family lost control of the business, which publishes newspapers such as Melbourne's The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, they currently own 9.7% of Fairfax shares through private company Marinya Media.

"James has made an immense contribution to Australian society," Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood said in a statement. "His generous spirit and philanthropy has created a legacy that will continue to enrich the lives of Australians for many generations to come. Our thoughts are with his family and friends."

Following his resignation in 1987, Fairfax spent the next three decades collecting art from across Australia and Europe before a series of heart attacks in recent years curtailed his travels.

His extensive charity work, including the James Fairfax Scholarship Fund, which provides grants for an international baccalaureate diploma, landed him a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 2010.

National Gallery of Australia director Gerard Vaughan, of which Fairfax was a patron, said: "Mr Fairfax will be remembered as one of Australia's greatest patrons of the arts".

Founded in 1831, Fairfax Media is Australia's oldest and second largest media company. Its most recent figures put company revenues at $1.8 billion AUD ($1.4 billion).