Allan Hely, one of the architects of the Australian music industry, died in the early hours of Thursday morning (July 26) from motor neurone disease. He was 80.

Hely, one-time financial adviser to Rupert Murdoch, ran the media magnate's Festival Records between 1961 and 1998. The Sydney-based operations included pressing plants, publishing, accounts and a video department, all gathered under the same roof.

As chairman of Australia's first powerhouse independent music company, Hely ensured its fortunes with a steady flow of international hits through licensing new labels from the U.S. and U.K.

These included deals with A&M Records, Liberty Records, Virgin Records, Chrysalis Records and Island Records. During some months in the 1970s, Festival exceeded Australian market-leader EMI Records' share.

At the same time, while multinational record companies showed minimal interest in domestic acts, Festival launched the careers of the Bee Gees, Olivia Newton-John, Sherbet and Billy Thorpe, among others.

Hely also encouraged new Aussie acts by licensing young domestic labels as Mushroom Records, Spin and Clarion.

"He was a father figure to me, and opened up tremendous opportunities for Australian acts," says Michael Gudinski, Melbourne-based founder of Mushroom Records and now chairman of the Mushroom Group of Companies. "He was an essential part of the growth of this industry."

Gudinski acknowledges that Hely willingly funded Mushroom for its first few years until it could support itself.

"He had a very strong business acumen but he genuinely ran Festival as a family concern," recalls Peter Hebbes, now Sydney-based managing director of publisher and talent management Hebbes Music Group. "He not only knew the workers' names but also that of their wives and children. There was a strong loyalty towards him from the stars and the acts. There was very little staff turnover."

In 1991, Hely was awarded a special achievement award at the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) awards. He is survived by his wife Ann and four children.