The Lanyons are an unlikely newspaper dynasty. James Lanyon, a post office employee at Woomelang in Victoria, joined the Sunraysia Daily as publisher in time for its launch on 16 October 1920. His son, Charles Dudley (1902– 88), a post office employee in the nearby town of Birchip, joined the paper two months later. It is uncertain how long the father stayed with the newspaper, but the son spent his lifetime there, becoming company secretary in 1924, manager in 1940 and proprietor in 1953.
The Sunraysia Daily was fortunate to survive two years: a receiver was appointed on 14 May 1923, with instructions to close the newspaper if necessary. Various attempts were made to form a syndicate to buy the company, but no progress was made until 13 February 1924, when New Sunraysia Daily Pty Ltd—with three Country Party politicians having equal one-third shares—acquired it. The company appointed Lanyon secretary and George Silverton Baxter manager. One of the politicians, Robert Charles Dunlop Elliott (1884–1950), a banker and construction contractor, and later a senator, was appointed chairman in April 1927, and emerged as sole proprietor in 1935.
He spearheaded an acquisition program, buying small, struggling newspapers. In the 1930s, these included papers at Ouyen, Woomelang, Murrayville, Castlemaine, Shepparton and Swan Hill (all in Victoria) and Wentworth, New South Wales. In the 1940s, with Lanyon as chief executive, the company acquired the Albury Banner, Yarrawonga Chronicle, Cobram Courier, Maryborough Advertiser, Cohuna Farmers’ Weekly and a 50 per cent interest in the Wangaratta Chronicle-Despatch.
Soon after Elliott’s death in 1950, Lanyon acquired a controlling interest in the company, by now the Elliott Provincial Newspaper Group Pty Ltd, which had 175 permanent employees. Lanyon’s philosophy was that the paper was for the local community. In the mid-1960s, with the encouragement of the Herald and Weekly Times, the group bought some Melbourne suburban newspapers, but sold them to the Leader group when it was owned by the Mott family. The Elliott group bought the Kyneton Guardian in April 1965 and the Benalla Standard in March 1966, but sold the Standard 15 months later. Lanyon relinquished day-to-day control to his son in 1970, but continued as chairman of directors until his death.
William Russell (Bill) Lanyon (1937–2013) gained experience in all phases of the business, and qualified as an accountant before becoming company secretary in 1960, manager of the group in 1970 and executive chairman in 1988. In July 2008, his eldest son, Ross, became managing director, while Bill continued as chairman until his death. Ross’s brother, Jamie, is the assistant manager of the Sunraysia Daily. Two cousins were in the business, too: Bruce Ellen, as general manager of the Latrobe Valley Express; and Tim Ellen, as manager of the events signage company Visibility. The Elliott group has four shareholders: Bill; his brother, Donald James; their sister, Dorothy Ellen; and the Taylor Trust, which holds shares on behalf of the connected families.
REFs: R. Kirkpatrick, The Bold Type (2010); R. Kirkpatrick, interview with W.R. Lanyon, 3 October 2002.