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Who is Mitch Catlin, Matthew Guy’s former chief of staff

Written by Javed Iqbal

Catlin had some skin in the game. He worked on Venstre member Nick Russian’s bid to become Lord Mayor of Melbourne (Russian finished a solid fourth), and helped manage a storyline that briefly threatened to destabilize that campaign when The Russian’s wife Rozalia was seen shopping at Tiffany’s during one of Melbourne’s interminable shutdowns in 2020.

However, most of his experience has been with advanced business clients. After leaving the media – he was a TV journalist at Seven – he worked in public relations and marketing, spending almost five years as Myers’ PR and events general manager before moving to Swisse Wellness in 2011 for almost four years.

However, in 2014 he registered the name for his own PR firm, Catchy Media Marketing and Management its website has since expired.

It was this business that benefited Catlin’s approach to billionaire Liberal donor Jonathan Munz when Catlin sought more than $100,000 in payments, in addition to his taxpayer-funded salary. Munz said that when he received the email, he “dismissed it outright”. Catlin resigned on Tuesday after The age revealed the boring affair.

Few liberals will go on the record to share their thoughts on Catlin. One senior figure unleashed a barrage of unprintable descriptions of Catlin when contacted, while another scorned him as a “name-dropper” who won favor with Guy with his promises to bring in big donations from corporate supporters.

“A lot of people who knew him pretty well have reached out to me and said, ‘We knew this was going to happen,'” this person said.

“It was only a matter of time before he broke loose.”

Publicly, senior Liberals are keeping a tight lip (with the notable exception of former leader Michael O’Brien, who pointedly wrote on Twitter on the day of Catlin’s resignation: “Sheet of dodgy politics? Me too.”

But in private they screw up. Some predict Guy will lose the leadership while grimly acknowledging where this turmoil would lead less than four months before the state election.

“I think on the surface they’re all talking about it like it’s a storm in a teacup, but I think deep down they’re pretty well aware of the seriousness of it all,” said one of the management.

And on Matthew Guy: “I just don’t know how he can survive it, to be honest.”

Mitch Catlin and, inset, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.

Mitch Catlin and, inset, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.Credit:The age

Talk to people about Catlin and an episode will be mentioned over and over again. Perhaps not for the reasons Catin might prefer.

Three years ago Nine star Karl Stefanovic – then facing relentless social media pressure in the wake of his divorce and new relationship – was the subject of a speculative column in Herald Sun (by the same stalwart writer) detailing his apparent signing of a deal to have Catlin kick-start his “reinvention of reputation”.

Catlin, readers were told, would help Stefanovics “on the road to redemption” make his “brand.” The problem was, it seemed Herald Sun knew more about this arrangement than anyone else.

“Mitch is a man of enormous confidence and self-promotion,” a well-placed source with knowledge of the episode told this masthead. “He and Karl had a conversation in a marquee at the Melbourne Cup. That’s all it was.” The arrangement, as it was, was not to last. Catlin declined to tell Sydney Morning Herald whether he himself had “leaked” the story.

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However, one person who worked with him before he joined Guy’s office said Catlin was a “really good publicist.” They pointed to his bringing out American comedian Ellen DeGeneres to promote “G’day USA” in 2013, and Nicole Kidman to perform in the Swiss marquee on Derby Day at Flemington in 2012.

The latter was, the source said: “total genius, to be honest … It was all anyone talked about.”

But being a genius at PR – knowing which journalists to court, who to take to lunch and which celebrities to bring to Australia to promote your brand – is not the same as being smart about politics .

“He’s a rat-cunning, savvy lifestyle product publicist,” notes a person who knew him well.

“So to make this launch into politics, apart from the disdain he had for [Daniel] Andrews, I thought it was a strange move and the first thing I thought was, “they must be playing him a lot of money” because I thought, you know, why would you?

“I found it a little strange.”

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Javed Iqbal

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