A personal tribute to Nick Milligan
The tragic death of Nick Milligan at the weekend cruelly robbed a family of a father, husband, son and brother. It also stole from the advertising industry one of its most colourful, talented and clever practitioners – and, to many people employed within, great friend.
In a profile a few years ago, Campaign described Milligan as one of the last of the “big beasts” in media. We were right about his stature – he was a towering leader at Sky Media and at Channel 5 before that, and he was a giant figure in TV advertising.
But he was certainly not beastly. Those who dealt with him over his thirty-year career will attest to the kindness and generosity, the mischievous sense of humour (he particularly loved a bit of intrigue), the intelligence and the wit that lay behind those twinkly eyes and toothy grin.
Milligan was also a professional – a truly class act – and his combined qualities drove the self-proclaimed farmer’s son from Somerset to the top of the commercial television industry. The fact that he helped so many of his colleagues follow him up TV’s greasy pole – for example Nick Bampton, now the sales chief at Channel 5 and Kelly Williams, now the sales director at ITV – is testament to his generosity of spirit.
It was at Channel 5, it seemed, that he had his biggest TV job when he was propelled into the acting chief executive’s job following the departure of Dawn Airey. After the job went to Jane Lighting, he followed Airey to BSkyB in 2004. To some observers at the time this seemed a surprise – Sky Media wasn’t really much of a player in those days and advertising revenue was merely the icing on the cake to a business that obtained most of its money from subscriptions.
With RTL later offloading Channel 5 to Northern & Shell and Sky Media becoming one of the most innovative and highly rated sales outfits under his leadership, subsequent events showed that his judgment was right.
His loss is keenly felt.