Industry mourns Lord Rothermere

The newspaper industry was rocked this week by the news of the death of the press baron, Viscount Rothermere, who died on Tuesday night at St Thomas’s Hospital after a heart attack.

The newspaper industry was rocked this week by the news of the

death of the press baron, Viscount Rothermere, who died on Tuesday night

at St Thomas’s Hospital after a heart attack.

Rothermere, chairman of the Daily Mail and General Trust, was 73 years

old. His death follows that of his great friend and collaborator, Sir

David English, the editor-in-chief and chairman of Associated

Newspapers, who died in June. Rothermere is succeeded by his 30-year-old

son, Jonathan Harmsworth, who is presently managing director of the

Evening Standard.

Rothermere, a staunch Tory who shocked the Establishment in May last

year when he announced he was transferring his allegiances to Labour,

successfully oversaw the transformation of the once-beleaguered Daily

Mail into the clear mid-market leader.

Educated in America and at Eton, Rothermere was not a promising


After failing his officer selection board he spent four years of

National Service as a private, where he said he developed an affection

for real people. He then started at the bottom of the newsprint world,

working for a year in a Canadian paper mill before moving to Fleet

Street, where he picked up the tricks of the trade from his father,


He succeeded his father in 1971 as chairman of the Daily Mail and

General Trust and made his first move in building the Daily Mail with

the closure of the struggling Daily Sketch, and the appointment of David

English as editor of the Daily Mail. He and English transformed the

broadsheet paper into an upmarket tabloid with a strong appeal to young

career women, formulating a strategy that eventually resulted in the

Daily Mail overtaking the market leader, the Daily Express, in 1986.

In 1979, Rothermere closed the London Evening News in return for a 50

per cent stake in the Evening Standard, of which he gained overall

control in 1985. In 1982, Rothermere launched the Mail on Sunday.

Despite a shaky start, it has since managed to overtake its rival, the

Sunday Express.

Rothermere married Patricia Brooks in 1957, who bore him two daughters

and a son. After her death in 1992, he married his longtime companion,

Maiko Lee.


Paul Dacre - editor of the Daily Mail and editor-in-chief of Associated


’His death is an immense loss and we hope to continue the journalistic

excellence and belief in journalism which was his legacy.

’Viscount Rothermere was a brilliant mix of businessman and


He took a lot of risks with the newspapers and invested in


In the early years, when the Daily Mail was virtually dying, he saw the

gap in the market for a mid-market tabloid and made it a successful

formula . The Mail on Sunday, which everyone said would not survive, did

lose money to begin with but Rothermere continued to invest in it and

the newspaper is now a hugely successful product.’

Doug Flynn - managing director of News International Newspapers

’Lord Rothermere was one of the most respected publishers of the last

two decades. Together with David English, his redirection of the Daily

Mail and the Mail on Sunday was masterful. His commitment and certainty,

of course, was shown through a continual investment in his titles. He

will be deeply missed by everyone in journalism.’

Rupert Murdoch chairman and chief executive of News Corporation

’This is a great and sudden loss for his widow and children and my

sympathies are with them. I mourn the death of a very good friend. He

was a valued business competitor and colleague and this is a tremendous

loss for the media industry as well. He was an outstanding publisher

with a sure touch; his absence will be keenly felt as a stalwart

defender of our freedoms as well as our responsibilities.’

Rosie Boycott, editor of the Express

’I am deeply saddened to learn of Lord Rothermere’s sudden and tragic

death. His contribution to the British press is without equal. As sole

proprietor of the Daily Mail’s stable of newspapers, he defined the

shape of the press in this country for the last decades of the 20th


Born with printers’ ink in his veins, he brought enormous passion,

commitment and enthusiasm to all his newspapers. He will be enormously


Jeremy Deedes, managing director of the Telegraph

’Twenty-five years ago, the Daily Mail was a broadsheet in decline, the

Evening News was struggling and the Mail on Sunday didn’t exist, so it’s

a huge tribute that Viscount Rothermere left three successful


The relaunch of the Daily Mail was his greatest triumph and he was

persistent in pursuing the success of the Mail on Sunday. Since he

gained control of the Evening Standard, it has seen off all rivals that

launched against it. He really believed that journalism sold newspapers

and was always prepared to invest in the editorial product.’