Hugh Donald "Huge Deal" McIntosh (10 September 1876 – 2 February 1942) was an Australian show-business entrepreneur born to parents of Scottish and Irish origin  and modest means in Sydney's Surry Hills, at that time a ramshackle suburb with a reputation for crime and vice among the largely Irish immigrant population. His policeman father Hugh Fraser McIntosh died when he was four.
According to an obituary, he was educated at Marist Brothers College, St Marys Sydney. but in an interview for Triad (a show-business periodical) in 1925, he gave a more colourful account, claiming to have run away to Adelaide as a silversmith's assistant at the age of seven, to have worked for BHP at Broken Hill at nine, then a variety of occupations culminating in working for a surgeon at twelve. Certainly by seventeen he was a chorus boy in a Maggie Moore pantomime Sinbad the Sailor in Melbourne.
In 1897, while working as a barman in Sydney, McIntosh began selling pies at sporting venues, and by the age of twenty-six was the owner of a catering company, then in an audacious leap that was to become a trademark, embarked on sports promotion. First it was cycle racing, notably seven-day events, while he was secretary of the League of New South Wales Wheelmen. He also secured a contract with the American World Sprint Champion cyclist Major Marshall Taylor that saw him race in Australia between 1903 and 1904.
Then came boxing. Hoping to capitalise of the presence of the US "Great White Fleet" in August 1908, he hurriedly built the huge open-air Sydney Stadium at Rushcutters Bay to stage a boxing match between local champion Bill "Boshter" Squires and World champion Tommy Burns. On Boxing Day 1908 he staged a world championship heavyweight title fight between Burns and Jack Johnson. He made a huge profit from seat sales and a film of the bout, which he took to Britain and America. In 1912 be built an enclosed octagonal roofed stadium at Rushcutters Bay to a design by Thomas Pollard Sampson. The venue seated up to 12,000 people and at the time McIntosh said that the Stadium was "the largest roofed-in structure in the world". He sold his stadium business to his referee, the famous sportsman Reginald "Snowy" Baker who, with John Wren, went on to develop a chain of stadiums. Author Peter FitzSimons asserts that McIntosh attempted to sign a US management deal with the Australian boxer, Les Darcy but, when Darcy declined, McIntosh threatened, in retribution, to prevent any fights Darcy might attempt in the USA. FitzSimons suggests that when Darcy made his controversial trip to the US, McIntosh made good his threat and successfully enlisted the assistance of several state governors to ban the Darcy fights.
From 1914 to 1917 he sponsored the trophy "Hugh D MacIntosh Shield" for the New South Wales Rugby League premiership.
In 1911 he headed a consortium that acquired the Harry Rickards Tivoli theatre chain, but was careful to retain Rickards' style (and company name: Harry Rickards Tivoli Theatres Ltd.), but adding an Adelaide Tivoli, then building a Brisbane Tivoli in 1915, designed by Henry White. To compete with the Fuller Brothers and J. C. Williamson he imported international stars such as Gene Greene, Lew Fields, Ada Reeve, W. C. Fields (then billed as "the world's greatest silent comedian") and George Gee and expanded the Tivoli repertoire to include musical comedy with the vaudeville, pantomime, Lee White - Clay Smith revues and melodramas such as "The Lilac Domino". In 1920 he produced Australia's first musical comedy F.F.F., written by Mildura-based dried fruit millionaire (and Tivoli shareholder) Jack De Garis with music by Reginald Stoneham. It failed to attract critical or popular support and may have been a factor in De Garis' eventual suicide. A transport strike caused him to lose money on an expensive production of Chu Chin Chow and he was forced to sell the lease to Harry Musgrove, though retaining his newspaper interests. The Musgrove venture failed, leaving the way open for J C Williamson ("The Firm") to take over running the chain.
In 1927 he took a revival of the 1909 Edward Locke play "The Climax" to London, apparently a good production, starring Dorothy Brunton, but in an inadequate theatre, and it closed after three weeks.
In May 1916 he acquired the Sunday Times newspaper, which became the major advertising medium for his theatres. With his purchase of the Sydney Sunday Times, McIntosh acquired the sporting weeklies The Arrow and The Referee. In 1915 he started advertising his own theatrical weekly The Green Room Magazine, nicknamed "The Tivoli Bible", employing Zora Cross as drama critic. He sold his Sunday Times interests in 1929.
In 1929 J. C. Williamson Tivoli Theatres Ltd was losing money and ceased rental payments to Harry Rickards Tivoli Theatres. Interest in the "talkies" was waning and McIntosh returned to producing revues for the (Melbourne) Tivoli and Princess, and the (Sydney) Haymarket and St James in a desperate attempt to generate an income. "The Follies of 1930" (with a cast that included Roy "Mo" Rene), "Pot Luck", then "Happy Days" (with a young Robert Helpmann - billed as "Bobby Helpman, burlesque dancer") and "Sparkles", while trying to keep at bay creditors such as heiress Mrs Ben Shashoua (née Joan Norton, daughter of John Norton) as the value of his assets shrank with the advance of the Great Depression. Hopelessly insolvent, Harry Rickards' Tivoli Theatres Ltd folded the following year. Mrs Shashoua's solicitor later admitted to helping engineer McIntosh's bankruptcy.
In December 1930, Sydney "Truth", a weekly newspaper founded by John Norton, published an article on the life and loves of McIntosh, calling him an "erstwhile pieman" who had "drained the life-blood" from the Sunday Times. McIntosh successfully sued for libel but was awarded damages of just one farthing. In the course of proceedings it was revealed that he had transferred £66,703 from the account of Sunday Times Ltd, of which he was managing director, to Harry Rickards Tivoli Ltd of which he was governing director in an attempt to keep the Tivoli chain solvent.
McIntosh championed NSW Labor Premier (also "bosom friend" and business partner ) William Holman in his newspapers. He contributed generously to the party (he was characterised by Jack Lang as "Holman's political fixer") and in 1911 was promised a seat in the New South Wales Legislative Council. This he was finally granted in 1917, but though using the honorific "MLC" in all his advertisements, he took little part in debates. In May 1932 McIntosh was forced, as a bankrupt, to relinquish his seat.
- He acted as agent for Teesdale Smith in tendering for major government contracts;
- For a time he dabbled in movie projection; one film he promoted was the Italian classic Cabiria.
- He managed a guest house "Bon Accord", adjacent to Norman Lindsay's home at Springwood in the Blue Mountains after the death of its owner, jeweller businessman Stuart Dawson.
- In 1935 he opened the "Black and White Milk Bar" in Fleet Street, London. It proved highly profitable, but when he expanded it into a chain, the enterprise foundered.
In 1897 McIntosh married art teacher Marion Backhouse. She was to remain at his side to the end, through financial crises and numerous infidelities, notably with actress Vera Pearce. He was life governor of many NSW hospitals and charitable institutions; he was a founder of the Australia Day Committee and the Sydney Millions Club and at one stage president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia and a fellow of the Royal Empire Society.
His wife also led an active social life. She travelled several times to the United States with Mrs Holman, was prominent in patriotic organisations the Vaucluse branch of the Red Cross Society, in hospital fundraisers, sporting circles, notably as longtime president of the New South Wales Ladies' Amateur Swimming Association and its 1932 Olympics Committee. She was also prominent in the English-Speaking Union
His last years were spent in England, where he died in a London hospital and was cremated.
He could inspire great loyalty among his acquaintances. Nellie Stewart, in her memoirs, wrote "When I hear people talk slightingly of this big man I cannot bear it, for he was the most generous of men, and he was at all times far more likely to suffer from brigandage than to resort to it. He was of little less than medium height, broad in the shoulders, cheery in the eye, hiding under a rattling loquacity the fact that he was shy as a girl, a man all aglow with enthusiasm like a happy boy. He was electric. He had the oddest happy knack of getting out of all his people the best that was in them."
References in popular culture
His 1903 import of the black champion cyclist Major Taylor for the Sydney Thousand competition was depicted in the 1992 TV mini-series Tracks of Glory, from the book by Dr Jim Fitzpatrick. Richard Roxburgh played McIntosh.
- Cunneen, Chris "Hugh Donald McIntosh" Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 10, Melbourne University Press
- Hetherington, John Australians – Nine Profiles F.W. Cheshire, 1960
- Stewart, Nellie My Life's Story John Sands Ltd, 1923
- Van Straten, Frank Huge Deal – The Fortunes and Follies of Hugh D. McIntosh Lothian Books, 2004
- "McIntosh, Hugh Donald (1876–1942)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
- "Hugh D. McIntosh 1876-1942". Live Performance Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 18 February 2020. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
- "Hugh D McIntosh dies in London". The Argus. 4 February 1942. p. 3. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- West, John (1978). Theatre in Australia. Cassell Australia. ISBN 0-7269-9266-6.
- "Untitled". Construction : Weekly Supplement To Building. 11 (233). New South Wales, Australia. 29 July 1912. p. 8. Retrieved 4 June 2019 – via Trove.
- FitzSimons, Peter. The Ballad of Les Darcy. Australia: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-7322-8636-1.
- "Rugby League Premierships". Darryl's Rugby League Page.
- "In equity: before the Chief Judge, Mr Justice Harvey". The Sydney Morning Herald. 8 October 1930. p. 9. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Mr Hugh McIntosh: new artists". The Advertiser. p. 19. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Amusements: Ms Ada Reeve". The Advertiser. South Australia. 1 July 1914. p. 17. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Melbourne Conservatorium of Music". 30 May 2019.
- "Classified Advertising: King's Theatre". The Argus. 21 October 1920. p. 12. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Music and Drama". The Sydney Morning Herald. 12 November 1927. p.��10. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Objectionable films". The Mercury. 19 March 1920. p. 7. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "The pictures: return to the "Legitimate"". The Argus. 19 August 1930. p. 10. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "St James' Theatre — "Happy Days"". The Sydney Morning Herald. 4 October 1930. p. 8. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Classified Advertising: Rickard's Tivoli Theatre". The Argus (Melbourne). 11 October 1930. p. 26. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Action on guarantee: appeal to High Court". The Argus. 7 November 1930. p. 4. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Winding-up order Against theatrical company Harry Rickard's Tivoli Theatres Ltd". The Sydney Morning Herald. 17 February 1931. p. 6. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Creditor's petition: liabilities of H D McIntosh - serious allegations by solicitor". The Argus. 20 March 1931. p. 8. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Libel action: McIntosh v "Truth"". The Sydney Morning Herald. 12 September 1931. p. 12. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Mr W A Holman: evidence in McIntosh examination". The Canberra Times. 12 February 1932. p. 5. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- Mitchell, Alex (1 April 1995). "Labor's lucky 13". The Sun-Herald. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011 – via boilermakers.com.au.
- "Appointment of Members of the Legislative Council of New South Wales". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales. 11 May 1917. p. 2415. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Mr Hugh Donald McIntosh (1876–1942)". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
- "Mr Holman catechised". The Argus. 13 February 1920. p. 6. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "From near and far". The Sydney Morning Herald. 10 November 1915. p. 5. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Advertising:For our wounded soldiers: The heros helpers committee". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 July 1915. p. 2. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Advertising:Monster Red Cross carnival". The Sydney Morning Herald. 13 April 1915. p. 2. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Answer to correspondents". The Sydney Morning Herald. 28 February 1917. p. 5. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Juvenille Ball". The Sydney Morning Herald. 4 September 1919. p. 7. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Near and far: committee working for the Womens Hospital matinee". The Sydney Morning Herald. 25 June 1920. p. 6. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Near and far: special committee of St Margarot's Hospital". The Sydney Morning Herald. 22 May 1925. p. 7. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "Near and far: New South Wales Ladles' Amateur Swimming Association". The Sydney Morning Herald. New South Wales, Australia. 11 September 1924. p. 5. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- "English Speaking Union". The Sydney Morning Herald. New South Wales, Australia. 11 October 1924. p. 12. Retrieved 19 February 2020 – via Trove.
- Hugh D. McIntosh at Live Performance Australia Hall of Fame