- Times editor Peter Stothard has been forced to reveal the real reason behind his decision to take a sabbatical for an "indefinite period," after press speculation about his future.
Stothard has announced to staff that he is suffering from a treatable form of cancer and is taking time off to undergo that treatment. He says that he intends to return to work as soon as he is able.
News broke on Wednesday that Stothard's eight year editorship of The Times was drawing to a close after news of his departure.
Sources claimed that News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch has become increasingly frustrated with the newspaper's failure to knock the Daily Telegraph from the top slot, which sold 1,028,965 copies last month compared to The Times 729,140 copies.
The news accounts for Stothard's absence from News International during the crucial run up to The Times recent re-launch, which involved the introduction of a new tabloid section, Times 2. This was billed by the paper as the most significant redesign since the 1960's.
Deputy editor Ben Preston will oversee Stothard's duties for the time being. A spokeswoman added that Preston, 36, would not take on the title of acting editor. "Peter will be coming back," she said.
Stothard won Editor of the Year while the paper scooped Newspaper of the Year at the recent What the Papers Say awards. Stothard has also increased sales from 390,000 when he joined in 1992 to its current figure of more than 700,000.
Meranwhile it is understood that the Saturday paper is to undergo a similarly dramatic re-launch to the weekly paper.