“You see life through their eyes”

Hav­ing raised four chil­dren over the du­ra­tion of their 40-year mar­riage, David and Libby Koch are en­joy­ing the next chap­ter of their lives: their five grand­kids Pho­tog­ra­phy NICK SCOTT Styling IRENE TSO­LAKAS In­ter­view AMELIA SAW

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Contents -

David and Libby Koch in­vite Stel­lar into their home to cel­e­brate Grand­par­ents Day and share the joy and chaos of fam­ily time with their five beloved grand­kids.

Tak­ing a sim­ple fam­ily por­trait for Stel­lar is any­thing but straight­for­ward at the Koch house: with five grand­kids rang­ing in age from two to 11, it quickly be­comes clear the task is noth­ing short of un­bri­dled chaos.

“Hey, Poppy! Look what I can do!” yells one grand­son, as he swings off a beam from the per­gola roof where the fam­ily is sit­ting, in a scene that calls to mind Mowgli in The Jun­gle Book. David Koch shoots the lit­tle boy a warm smile, but his at­ten­tion is abruptly drawn to his left leg, where a twoyear-old is throw­ing a tantrum that could wake the dead.

The Sun­rise pre­sen­ter leans down, scoops up the bawl­ing boy and be­gins rock­ing and dip­ping him in his arms un­til the child, mes­merised by the move­ment, stops cry­ing. This only pro­vides a segue to the next drama, as a third grand­son shoves his chin in David’s face, de­mand­ing it be in­spected for a splin­ter.

It’s ex­haust­ing to watch but in the eye of the storm, grand­par­ents David and Libby Koch are per­fectly calm. Per­haps it’s a tech­nique they’ve re­fined over 40 years of mar­riage, the build­ing of a me­dia empire and the rais­ing of four chil­dren – all of whom were born by the time they were 32.

Now, with five grand­chil­dren in the mix, they say to­day’s Grand­par­ents Day will give them the chance to rel­ish the won­der­ful may­hem that this life chap­ter has brought. “Look, hav­ing fam­i­lies isn’t for ev­ery­one,” says David, 62, fi­nally en­joy­ing a mo­ment’s peace in his stylishly dec­o­rated liv­ing room in the fam­ily home on Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches. “We de­cided to have our kids re­ally young and it was a de­lib­er­ate de­ci­sion be­cause we wanted to be young enough as they grow older that we could un­der­stand them and still be ac­tive, and so we have also been re­ally ac­tive grand­par­ents.”

For 16 years, David Koch has been a fa­mil­iar face in Aus­tralian house­holds as the long­stand­ing host of the Seven Net­work’s break­fast TV show Sun­rise. It’s a gig that comes with 3am wake-up calls and the un­re­lent­ing pres­sure of a rat­ings war with To­day, its fierce ri­val on Nine. Then there’s the fam­ily busi­nesses, con­tent and mar­ket­ing agen­cies Pin­stripe Me­dia and KBB Dig­i­tal, and David’s TV pro­gram Kochie’s Busi­ness Builders, which has pro­duced more than 100 episodes.

In ad­di­tion, he’s chair­man of the Port Ade­laide Foot­ball Club and the cou­ple is heav­ily in­volved with char­ity Youth Off The Streets, which has seen them es­tab­lish the Koch Cen­tre for Youth and Learn­ing, to help dis­ad­van­taged young peo­ple in western Syd­ney. These are no dod­der­ing grand­par­ents.

Libby, 61, ad­mits be­com­ing hands-on grand­par­ents to their daugh­ter Sa­man­tha’s chil­dren, Matilda, 11, Os­car, nine, and Lila, six, and their daugh­ter Brie’s kids, Jax, six, and Teddy, two, has made life more of a jug­gle – but it’s a com­pli­ca­tion they have em­braced.“it’s won­der­ful, ab­so­lutely won­der­ful; it’s en­riched our life, but it’s def­i­nitely busier. But that’s be­cause we want to be in­volved and it gives our daugh­ters a big hand,” she says.

David, who refers to Libby, a for­mer nurse, as the “world’s great­est mother and nur­turer”, believes his grand­kids are the per­fect an­ti­dote to adult neg­a­tiv­ity – a phe­nom­e­non he sug­gests is far too wide­spread for a coun­try that is thriv­ing eco­nom­i­cally.

“If any­one’s grumpy to me I just say, ‘ Why on earth are you grumpy when you con­sider what we have in this coun­try?’ We’re on a world record streak of eco­nomic pros­per­ity, but it’s the most hated pe­riod,” he says. “And that’s what grand­kids do: they make you look at the world through their eyes. And it’s so pure and pas­sion­ate.”

He ap­plies this same op­ti­mistic at­ti­tude to his jam-packed sched­ule. Rather than com­plain­ing about the crack-of-dawn wake-up calls, he cel­e­brates his bald­ness. It means less time in the make-up chair than co-stars Sa­man­tha Army­tage and Na­talie Barr, and by de­fault ex­tra cher­ished min­utes of snooze time.

He’s also had to learn to take con­tro­versy in his stride – with live TV

“This gig started be­cause we wanted to be to­gether and wanted a fam­ily, so we re­mind our­selves of that”

giv­ing David am­ple time to land him­self in hot wa­ter. There was the time he was threat­ened with a mob of an­gry mums out­side the Sun­rise stu­dio after he said women should be “classy” when breast­feed­ing, and the mo­ment he set so­cial me­dia alight with crit­i­cism by sug­gest­ing Ir­ish repub­li­cans may be be­hind the Bos­ton Marathon bomb­ings. Then ear­lier this month, while dis­cussing Ja­maican-born sprinter Usain Bolt’s po­ten­tial trans­fer from foot­ball club Cen­tral Coast Mariners to play with Mal­tese out­fit Val­letta FC, he made a ref­er­ence to slav­ery that raised eye­brows.

“Ba­si­cally, the use of the word slav­ery is a ref­er­ence I’ve used to de­fend play­ers who want to trade clubs or change jobs in sport,” he later clar­i­fied on Twit­ter. “You can’t keep them... it’s a free world. There’s no slav­ery any more. Peo­ple have rights. I ad­mit it was clum­sily put this morn­ing when talk­ing about Bolt shift­ing clubs so early and I should have ex­plained it bet­ter.”

But for the most part he is un­apolo­getic when it comes to those who take um­brage at what he says in the course of sev­eral hours of live TV ev­ery week. “What you see is what you get. Some­times I share too much about Lib and the kids,” he ad­mits, adding that he has reg­u­larly come off air to see an an­gry mes­sage from his wife. “That’s what I love about text mes­sages,” says Libby. “I get it off my chest straight away.”

Yet this time last year, the pop­u­lar host con­sid­ered quit­ting. “I thought this would be our [my] last year do­ing Sun­rise. I was won­der­ing whether it was time for a change but Seven dis­agreed, so it was good. I’ve got an­other two years,” he says. Even­tu­ally, he ne­go­ti­ated a four-day work week to sweeten the deal.

When it does come to an end, he’s not sure what his next move would en­tail, but is res­o­lute about one thing: he’ll never stop work­ing.

Be­ing able to ap­pre­ci­ate the good times is not just some­thing that the Koch fam­ily rec­om­mends, it’s been a nec­es­sary fac­tor in mak­ing it through four decades of mar­riage, a mile­stone they’ll be cel­e­brat­ing come Jan­uary with an an­niver­sary trip to Dubai.

After mar­ry­ing in their early 20s in 1979, David and Libby wel­comed their first child, Sa­man­tha, when they were 24 and 23, re­spec­tively. It was be­fore they had es­tab­lished their ca­reers and co­in­ci­den­tally just be­fore the staff at The Aus­tralian news­pa­per, where David was a cadet jour­nal­ist,went on a six-week strike due to the in­tro­duc­tion of com­put­ers. “So that was a bit tense,” says Libby.

“Cer­tainly hav­ing kids so young – and I ended up start­ing our own lit­tle busi­ness – it puts a lot of strain on your re­la­tion­ship, but it made it stronger, a lot closer and the kids have grown up closer,” adds David. “It was a work­through,” ex­plains Libby. “But be­cause you work through it, with the next thing that comes along that’s a strug­gle you think, ‘ Well, OK, I han­dled the last thing, I can do this.’”

They ad­mit ar­gu­ing, and loudly, is a reg­u­lar part of their re­la­tion­ship, but be­lieve air­ing their dif­fer­ences and mov­ing on has been key to keep­ing them to­gether. They don’t ad­here to the ad­vice of never go­ing to bed an­gry, but try to re­tain a healthy sense of per­spec­tive.

“We al­ways take it back to why we started do­ing this. This gig started be­cause we wanted to be to­gether and we wanted a fam­ily, so we re­mind our­selves of that. We’re both Pis­ceans, and like the Pis­cean sign we are two fish that go in op­po­site direc­tions,” says David. “But some­times,” Libby adds, “we swim to­gether.”

“What you see is what you get. Some­times I share too much”

David and Libby Koch, as pho­tographed for Stel­lar.

(from top) FAM­ILY David BUSI­NESS Koch and Sun­rise co-star Sa­man­tha Army­tage in­ter­view­ing then-pm Mal­colm Turn­bull on the Gold Coast dur­ing the Com­mon­wealth Games in April; David and wife Libby with their four chil­dren in 2016; the cou­ple on their wed­ding day in Jan­uary 1979.

(below, from left) DAVID WEARS Tren­ery shirt, tren­ery.com.au JAX WEARS Tiny Cot­tonstop, and Rylee + Cru LILA WEARS Tiny Cot­tonsover­alls and top, as be­fore OS­CAR WEARS Rylee+ Cru over­alls, as be­fore; Zara shirt, zara.com/au LIBBY WEARS Coun­try Road top andpants, coun­try­road.com.au Zara top, asbe­fore; Rylee + Cru pants, as be­fore MATILDA WEARS Zara dress, as be­fore

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