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John Cornell, key figure behind World Series Cricket, dies aged 80

John Cornell (right) alongside Paul Hogan Fairfax Media via Getty Images

John Cornell, the Australian TV and film icon and one of the major architects behind World Series Cricket (WSC), has died at the age of 80 after a 20-year battle with Parkinson's disease.

Cornell played a central role in the creation of WSC when he took the idea to Kerry Packer in 1976. After initially struggling to get it off the ground, the format went on to revolutionise the game while also for a time threatening to tear it apart.

Cornell was managing Dennis Lillee when the idea of WSC was first formed as a way of better paying players and he would be a key figure in signing other international stars to the competition. And it was Cornell who approached a Sydney advertising agency to create a jingle for the competition when it had struggled to take off in the first season - the outcome was the iconic "C'mon, Aussie, C'mon!"

"A classic Australian character, John Cornell made the lives he touched much richer, not only through donations, but also through his generosity of spirit, humour, humility and honour," his family said in a statement. "A true egalitarian, John sought equity and equality, and fought for a fair go.

"John's acute instincts and sharp intelligence drove his rebellious push of World Series Cricket against the establishment for higher recognition and bigger salaries for the world's players of his favourite game, reimagining, marketing and capturing it in a brand-new form."

Away from his impact on cricket, his achievements were legendary in TV and film including producing and co-writing Crocodile Dundee which starred his long-time business partner Paul Hogan and remains the most profitable Australian movie of all time.

Prior to the movie he started out as a journalist in Perth, then was the original producer of A Current Affair before a 16-year run of The Paul Hogan Shows.

"John Cornell was a man of enormous intellect and a creative genius who managed to touch so many, but as importantly he was a man with a big heart that filled a room," Michael Healy, Nine's director of television, said.

"From journalism with the creation of A Current Affair, through sport with World Series Cricket and entertainment with his mate Hoges they made magic on television for decades here at Nine."