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Tribute to Phil Ruthven, thanks for the wonderful contributions

Phil Ruthven, the founder of IBISWorld, passed away after a battle with cancer, on Friday, 29 July 2022 at the age of 82.

Phil was a fantastic supporter of Cuffelinks/Firstlinks from the start. We started publishing in 2013 and Phil's first article was on 24 May 2013. He contributed 26 articles in total, showing his vast knowledge, unique sources and wide areas of interest. Amazing for someone with many other priorities, Phil always met article deadlines and responded immediately to requests.

I met Phil a couple of times to talk about business. As someone who advised industry and political leaders, it was extraordinary to receive his advice and he was humble about his own achievements. He showed a genuine commitment to share his knowledge and an eagerness to educate.

As a tribute to Phil, this week’s edition features links to and summaries of all his articles. It shows our readers the great range of subjects he addressed here.

Phil’s funeral will be held on Friday 5 August 2022 at 12.30pm at St. Finbars Catholic Church, 86 Centre Road, Brighton East in Victoria. The funeral will be livestreamed here

Here is a eulogy from the IBISWorld website:

A forecaster, entrepreneur and storyteller, Phil was born and raised in Sydney, with Melbourne being home since the late 1960s, Phil spent over 10 years in the food industry, including executive positions in research, production and marketing for Edgells and Petersville, before establishing IBIS Corporate Services as a consulting firm in 1971.

A long-time contributor to TV, radio, newspapers and business magazines, Phil was sought-after for his views on topics ranging from business and strategy, through to economic and social issues. He didn’t mind being called a “Futurist” either, he had a great knack for seeing what was ahead over the next 20-years or more.

Phil undertook a variety of roles in addition to his day job, such as Adjunct Professor at The University of Technology (Sydney), and a member of the ANU College of Business & Economics Advisory Board. He was a past board member of the Melbourne Institute, CEDA and a past Director of Open Family Australia. Homelessness and education were Phil’s focus in his philanthropic pursuits, with his decades of dedication in doing his bit to make Australia a better place for the underprivileged.

In 2014, Phil became a Member of the Order of Australia, in recognition of his significant service to business and the community, in Phil’s self-effacing style, he said “I’m certainly humbled and proud to accept this but holy cow, my mother did 10 times as much as I did for the community and never received one – Mum, this is for you”.

The move from consulting to the delivery of online intelligence direct to desktops was a huge shift for IBISWorld, as was embarking on the information-hungry US economy. Phil had the joy of watching IBISWorld establish a reputation as an essential industry and company intelligence provider for businesses of almost any size.

Although Phil remained on the board of IBISWorld until his passing he stood down as chairman in 2015. He passed executive control of the business to his children in 2001. He spent the next 20 years of his retirement educating Australia’s business community on the keys to business success- probably his biggest passion in life.

Phil’s vision was for IBISWorld to be the world leader in business information. It brought him great satisfaction and pride that this vision was successfully executed in various iterations over the last 20 years.


Here are extracts from Terry McCrann comments in The Australian:

Phil Ruthven was one of the great and indeed significant personalities of business in Australia through the last quarter of the 20th century.

In a word, he was our first, and he remained our most influential ‘futurologist’.

He perfected the art and indeed the science of collating a mind-boggling amount of data about the economy and about business and industry – both back in time, to indeed the early 19th century, and also right across the contemporary business landscape.

He would ‘mine’ the data to both explain ‘the present’ – for the economy, for individual industries, and indeed for individual businesses; and most usefully, to project where ‘things’ were likely to head, across those three horizons, often 20 and 30 years into the future.

Most impressively, in the 100 or so presentations he would give every year at his peak through the 1980s and 1990s, his delivery was crystal clear, highly entertaining, and reassuringly calming. I for one never heard him raise his voice.

He was immensely influential especially among small and medium-sized businesses, giving them critical information about both their industries and the broader economy that unlike the big end of town they couldn’t possibly devote resources to trying to do themselves.


Phil Ruthven's Firstlinks Archive

A discombobulation decade for investors
16 March 2022
Every decade brings surprises, but discombobulating ones are more rare - being the 1910s, 1930s, 1940s and 1970s in the last century. We are just into the 2020s, but it already looks like a volatile decade.

In a short-term world, take a longer-term view
18 August 2021
There are many reasons why the market places too much emphasis on the short term, but taking a long view on growth, inflation, markets and sectors will lead to better policies and investments.

Why does Australia’s skewed stock market underperform?
5 May 2021
The Australian stock market is skewed towards mining and financial services which account for a whopping 55% of market capitalisation. In the US, these two account for only 17%. But there's more to our underperformance.

Changed visions: 2021 New Year resolutions
6 January 2021
We need to think hard about how we work and live in the future. How do governments, health gurus, individuals, politicians, businesses and social groups need to act in 2021, both in dealing with COVID and thereafter?

Are debt and its servicing cost serious worries?
21 October 2020
The impact of the pandemic on Australia's debt and deficit has forced the government into borrowing on a scale unimaginable at the start of 2020. What are the implications, and what is even more important?

COVID-19 and the madness of crowds
26 August 2020
57 million people die every year, including over 3 million from respiratory diseases. Why is COVID-19 allowed to panic nations around the world and destroy so many businesses and jobs?

Will our government embrace these three reforms?
20 May 2020
COVID-19 is an opportunity for a crucial policy reset, but what does that really mean? Business is hoping for three big reforms, but there are massive barriers to be overcome.

Pandemics in perspective
18 March 2020
Coronavirus is a particular worry compared to past epidemics because the world is now so interdependent, but the stockmarket has a habit of exaggerating threats as well as opportunities.

Uncharted waters, 2020 and beyond
20 November 2019
As we approach the 2020s, we are sailing into uncertain waters at best. These times also have some historical precedents, but we need to make important reforms before our luck runs out.

We have many world best practice companies
26 June 2019
While Australian businesses generally achieve returns below global comparisons, our Best 50 have delivered results well above the accepted world best practice level, and they come from a diversity of industries.

Housing prices from black hole to blue sky
28 March 2019
Housing prices and construction rose dramatically until 2016, and since then, low interest rates are helping home owners weather the storm of falling prices. How long until the blue sky shines again?

The bank trouble started decades ago
4 February 2019
The big institutions looked outside banking for growth, but found complex conglomerate structures hard to manage and needing different skills. Now it's back to basics, just as another challenge looms.

Financial assets performance over time
17 October 2018
There is no single asset class that consistently outperforms all others year on year but over the long term (>10 years), actively managed asset classes have performed better, and all asset classes have outperformed inflation.

In Australia, who’s got the money?
5 July 2018
Income taxes in Australia are over 2.5 times larger than the 'spending' taxes such as GST, excise, and stamp duties. The latest legislation ignored reforms in taxing spending over saving again.

The ascent of Asia and what it means for Australia
23 November 2017
Asia's GDP exceeds North America and Europe combined, and its increasing economic power should be embraced by Australia as we become more a Eurasian society. Are we enlightened enough to grab the opportunities?

Where do our wealth and jobs come from?
24 August 2017
There's no doubt Australians love property, especially housing, and despite slowing economic growth and a lack of political leadership, the business sector continues to create Australian wealth and jobs.

What matters most? A good industry or a good management?
18 May 2017
The surprising fact from this study of profitability is that there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ industry, only inadequate or inappropriate management.

Is the housing market in bubble territory?
20 October 2016
Everyone from the Reserve Bank Governor down is talking about apartment prices, and worrying about the consequences for the economy, and especially our banks. How does Australia's leading futurist interpret the data?

Where is Australia’s future growth?
23 June 2016
The Australian economy is changing, with new jobs in services, retail and health replacing the lost jobs in manufacturing. These trends are important for investors to find the successful companies of the future.

Taxation reform: is Canberra serious?
19 February 2016
Major reform of Australia's tax laws hits a hurdle when opposition builds to unpopular policies. We have lost the ability to explain and advocate for change, especially when you look at global comparisons.

Are recessions a thing of the past?
16 July 2015
Less than half of today's workforce has experienced a proper recession, but in the absence of serious reform and vision, Australia may break its 25 years of economic growth.

Where to put your money these days
12 March 2015
Investment conditions across all asset classes are especially challenging at the moment, with investors struggling to find attractive yields or capital appreciation while managing risk.

Superannuation and our growing wealth
2 October 2014
Average superannuation balances are increasing with each generation as more of a person's working life is covered by compulsory saving. It won't be long before super is the dominant source of wealth.

Living within one’s means
4 April 2014
Australia in 2014 is the lowest taxed nation in the developed world. Facing ten years of budget deficits, is the Abbott Government unwilling to raise tax rates, or will Joe Hockey make us share the pain come budget time?

There’s too much confidence in confidence surveys
15 November 2013
Confidence is important but can be misleading in terms of what is actually going on. Our emotions, which make us human, need to be balanced by facts, especially when we think times are grim.

Retiring with dignity
24 May 2013
Retiring is coming later and later in life, and given that most jobs are now cerebral rather than physical, the only way to wear the brain out is to stop using it! Retiring closer to 80 years of age in 2100 will probably be the norm.

David Fraser
August 05, 2022

Sad to learn of Phil’s passing. In the 1980s I was driving to an outlying office listening to Phil on ABC Radio. His topic was the obsession of business people insisting on putting their capital into bricks and mortar whereas their money could be better profitably employed in improving their stock turn. He said leave the bricks and mortar to the investors who would be your landlords. When the Kennett Govt. dismantled the State Electricity Commission I was instrumental in purchasing one of the SEC’s iconic double storey Art Deco buildings. I remembered what Phil had said and set up the purchase as a unit trust with my SMSF holding my units. Thanks to Phil, at 77 years of age I have had 17 years of tax free income from his advice. A few years ago I wrote and thanked him. I had a gracious reply. He will be missed.

Annette McClelland
August 04, 2022

Sorry to hear of Phil's passing, my startup really appreciated the support his competition gave us in our early days through the 3P program. His work will continue to impact the future. Love to his family, friends and colleagues.

John Coyle
August 04, 2022

I worked with Phil at Petersville in the seventies where he headed up the Groups R&D. His vision and engaging demeanour were key factors in establishing a development program to drive growth over the longer term and to change the business culture to support such a program

August 04, 2022

I enjoyed Phil's articles, always something different taking a bigger and longer picture.


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