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100 years ago

From Private Eye 13th August 1971

Sir Max Aitken’s days as chairman of Beaverbrook Newspapers may be numbered. Members of the board have been meeting to discuss ways and means of heaving him upstairs.

Informed City sources point at the recent steady rise in Beaverbrook shares and the possibility of a renewed merger bid for the Express group by Vere Harmsworth and the more stable Associated Newspapers Group.

Beaverbrook ‘A’ shares alone have crept up from a 1971 low of just over 10s to over 14s 6d – the 1970 low was near 7s –  during a time when the profits forecast of the Express group is unlikely to be higher than in previous years.

Last year’s merger talks between ‘Mere’ Harmsworth and Sir Max Aitken floundered only on the final terms. Sir Max’s family holdings in the Express group are for sale – at a price. Their original plan was to merge the Evening News with the Evening Standard, thus establishing an evening monopoly in the London area, and integrating the Mail with the Express.

Sir Max baulked on the final batting order in the merged group as both he and Mere, whose family-controlled group would have been the bidder, wanted to be top dog.

With a new compact Mail, believed to be selling rather less than the two million claimed, and the circulation of the Daily Express down to a bare 3,500,000, the logical step would be for Harmsworth to pursue his bid. The puny profits of the Beaverbrook group – around £1.5million on an annual turnover of about £40million – leaves it vulnerable.

The only way for the Express to avoid a takeover would be for the board to oust Sir Max from day to day control and replace him with a City whizz kid brought in from outside.

This reconstruction would be carried out by Evelyn de Rothschild, a partner in the family bank, who is a Beaverbrook director.

Sir Max may soon find himself in the position of titular President.

Bob Edwards

The only man to have been fired twice as editor of the Daily Express, despite being Lord Beaverbrook's favourite, has died aged 86.

David Hardy recalls: Bob Edwards was a strange cove. I remember when John Lennon was shot. Edwards was not too sympathetic and the coverage upset a few Sunday Mirror readers.

There was some sort of office drinks do and Tim Minogue was in a group chatting to the editor. Someone, possibly Minogue, mentioned the reader backlash.

Edwards snarled back: 'Backlash? What fucking backlash? There were no complaints from the readers. Sheridan! (his hapless PA) Show these bastards the letters file, there were no fucking letters, I expect a bit of loyalty from my staff and if you don't like it you can fuck off – in  fact I wish you would.'

Brief pause 'and she was on that fucking train!'


Hilarious account of Bob's visit to Manchester

Telegraph Obituary

Bob's scrapes, by Roy Greenslade

Ian Aitken's tribute in the Guardian



One in the Eye No3

From Private Eye 27th May 1966

Pandemonium was caused in the offices of the Daily Express last week when in the early hours of the morning the Editor, Derek Marks, suddenly appeared at the Foreign Desk.

‘Gibraltar!’ he shouted at the sleepy occupants, ‘Gibraltar! Vital talks are opening tomorrow! We must send a man out there soonest!’

Unfortunately for Marks, in view of the early hour there was manifest lack of personnel to undertake the vital mission to the Rock. However a correspondent, recently returned from Africa, was found to be free.  But his wife being about to give birth to a baby, he pleaded, justifiably, to be excused.

Eventually the old veteran George Gale agreed to take on the assignment. A plane ticket was booked for later that morning.

It was only when dawn broke and Gale was en route that it was pointed out to the Editor that the vital talks were being held, not in Gibraltar, but in London.

*Marks vigorously denied this story in the following issue of the Eye

16th February 1968


The merger fever has gripped Fleet Street to such an extent that the obscene rumour of a merger between Beaverbrook Newspapers and Associated Newspapers has now got out of hand. According to the more fanciful of El Vino’s wags, everything is now agreed. The Mail and the Express will merge into one paper, and Lord Rothermere will be chairman of the new company. The only difficulty concerns the evening papers. The News is much bigger but makes a small loss. The Standard, because of heavy advertising, makes a small profit. Who should take over whom? The is the – entirely hypothetical – question still being asked in Fleet Street.

Next week: Disappointment for Sid Reynolds and the men in white coats call for Derek Marks



NEW John Vass

The distinguished former Daily Express reporter and a pioneer in the web-offset printing revolution, has died at the age of 82.


Peter Michel has left the building

Super sub Peter Michel has finally thrown in the towel after a lifetime in journalism ranging from the Portsmouth Evening News to the Daily Express via the Daily Mirror. Old friends joined him to celebrate his retirement at The Monument pub in the City of London. He is pictured during his last shift on the Daily Express on June 22.




You Must Remember This

Well, probably not, actually. Former Expressman Bill Hammond has been rummaging through his drawers. Find out what he discovered here

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