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EDITIONS
Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK
Punch magazine to fold
Harrods, London
Mohammed Al Fayed is also owner of Harrods
The satirical magazine Punch is to close down after almost 161 years, brought down by big financial losses.

Its owner, Mohamed Al Fayed, broke the news to the magazine's 12 staff on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Al Fayed later said he had "done everything in my power to keep Punch alive by pumping in massive amounts of cash."

"But as a businessman, sometimes the head has to triumph over the heart and it is therefore with great regret that I have decided to close."

Slow collapse

Punch was costing 40,000 ($58,000) per issue to produce but subscriptions had sunk to only 6,000, he said.

Punch was launched in the summer of 1841, at a time of an upsurge in radical politics, and took a stance as the "defender of the oppressed and scourge of all authority."

Punch's heyday came in the 1940s, when its circulation peaked at 175,000 per issue.

Punch 1992
Punch's 1992 "final" front cover
Its demise began with sharply falling sales in the late 1980s, which forced its closure in 1992.

By that time its radical reputation had given way to a rather more staid image as staple reading material in dentists' waiting rooms.

Second chance

The title was revived when Mr Al Fayed, the Egyptian businessman who owns Knightsbridge store Harrods, bought it in 1996.

"Punch is a British institution. I was immensely proud when I was able to revive the magazine after four years of absence," he said on Wednesday.

"However, the warmth with which many people welcomed the return of Punch has not been reflected in sales."

"It simply no longer makes commercial sense to keep an ailing publication afloat indefinitely."

Cyber option

Not all the magazine's staff will lose their jobs - four will stay on to manage the website.

Though the printed magazine will disappear, the online archive version means Punch's humour will live on.

Mr Al Fayed has gained a reputation for refurbishing or salvaging British institutions.

The Harrods owner also restored the house outside Paris which had been home to the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom the Duke gave up his right to the throne.

See also:

21 Aug 00 | UK
29 Apr 02 | England
26 Jun 01 | Business
02 Nov 01 | Entertainment
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