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Wednesday, September 2, 1998 Published at 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK


Lord Rothermere

Lord Rothermere was one of the world's last great press barons.

As the head of a newspaper dynasty he was best known for being the proprietor of the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday and the London Evening Standard.

Fleet Street history

A veteran newspaperman, Lord Rothermere started working for the family firm in the 1950s.

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He made Fleet Street history in 1971 by deciding to relaunch the Daily Mail as a tabloid after its decline as a broadsheet. Eleven years later he launched the Mail on Sunday.

As well as three national newspapers, the Rothermere empire also includes numerous regional papers in Britain and a wide range of investments.

Started at the bottom

The son of the 2nd Viscount Rothermere, Vere Harold Esmond Harmsworth, was born on August 27 1925.

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Educated at Eton and in America he was academically a failure. Lord Rothermere started in the newspaper trade at the very bottom spending three years working at a Canadian paper mill learning about newsprint. After that he joined the family business of Associated Newspapers and worked his way up through most departments.

In 1957 he married Patricia Evelyn Beverley Brooks, nicknamed "Bubbles" with whom he had one son and two daughters. After she died in 1992, he married his long-time companion Korean-born Maiko Joeong-Shun Lee a year later.

The history of the dynasty

The Associated Newspapers dynasty was formed in 1896 when Alfred Harmsworth and his brother Harold formed the Daily Mail. The newspaper was aimed at the growing middle class.

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Alfred later became Lord Northcliffe and Harold the first Viscount Rothermere. When Lord Northcliffe died without an heir, Lord Rothermere assumed control of the business empire which later passed to his descendants.

Clear leadership

Vere Harmsworth took control of the family business from his father in 1971.

It was a crucial time with the newspaper the Daily Sketch in sharp decline. Lord Rothermere shut down the Sketch and appointed its editor, the late Sir David English, as editor of the newly revamped Daily Mail.

He steered Associated Newspapers through a succession of crises and turning points from the initially disastrous launch of the Mail on Sunday, to the battle between the Evening Standard and Robert Maxwell's London Daily News.

Rothermere the playboy

Lord Rothermere earned something of a reputation as a playboy. He lived much of the year in Paris where he loved to visit restaurants, nightclubs and casinos.

As one of the richest men in the country it was no surprise that he also had a self confessed weakness for beautiful women.

But politically Lord Rothermere surprised many in 1997 when he crossed the floor to support the Labour Party after Tony Blair's general election victory.

Lord Rothermere is succeeded by his son Jonathan, 30, who currently managing director of the Evening Standard.

Tributes paid

Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said: "I grew to value his company and his conversation, and his basic decency."

William Hague, the Conservative leader, said:"Those of us fortunate enough to have known him will also remember him for his warmth and humanity."

His rival newspaper proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation, also paid tribute.

He said: "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."

Baroness Thatcher, former Conservative Prime Minister, who was given stalwart support by Lord Rothermere's papers over many years, said: "He was one of the great figures in the British newspaper industry this century, and his papers reflected a strong sense of Britain's values and traditions."

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