Lord Thomson of Fleet, the bespectacled Canadian who controls eighty-odd newspapers, as wells as television stations, publishing companies and an airline, is the man behind it.
Lord Thomson of Fleet, the bespectacled Canadian who controls eighty-odd newspapers, as wells as television stations, publishing companies and an airline, is the man behind it. His organisation's been holding talks with the Times intermittently for two years, but the final round began early in August. Lord Thomson said tonight this was an opportunity to assist in the development of two great newspapers -- the greatest privilege of his life. His firm will own eighty-five per cent of the new company. The other fifteen per cent will go to the Times Publishing Company, the paper's present owners, in which Mr. Gavin Astor has the majority share-holding. He'll be life president of the new company.
Sir William Haley, now the editor of the Times, will be chairman of the board.
The other executives: Mr. Kenneth Thomson, Lord Thomson's son will be vice-chairman; Mr. Dennis Hamilton at present editor of the Sunday Times, will be editor-in-chief of both papers. Clifford Luton asked Sir William Haley why the merger was necessary.
Printing House Square, home of the Times since it first appeared a hundred and eighty-one years ago, will also be the headquarters of the new company. But there'll be an ironic situation in the printing operations. The Times presses also print the Observer, so the new company will be in the odd position of turning out one of its main competitors.
Mr. David Astor, editor of the Observer, said tonight that his company's relationship with the new firm would simply be that of printer and landlord. But one of the Observer's senior editors told me that news of the merger felt like a cold draught.
Why has this link-up now? Well, the Times were ready for it because they'd been losing several hundred thousand pounds a year -- and were apparently afraid that they couldn't continue in existence for more than another year. Mr. Denis Hamilton, the new joint editor-in-chief, told me tonight that the profits of the Sunday Times -- well over a million pounds -- would be used to develop the Times.
He said that the only thing he could see that was wrong with the Times was that it was too small and needed more pages for more coverage. Asked if he thought the Times could be made to pay, he said that they didn't run unprofitable newspapers. The merger has been referred to the Monopolies Commission, but this doesn't mean it will be stopped. In fact, the government' thought not to view it with any particular disfavour. So Lord Thomson seems sure of adding the Times to his empire, already worth sixty-million pounds. But only last night, interviewed in Twenty-four Hours on BBC-1, he was non-committal about it. Cliff Michelmore asked him about his long-standing ambition of someday owning a national daily paper.
New owners for the Times. A statement from Printing House Square tonight said a new company -- Times Newspapers Limited -- had been formed to own and publish both the Times and the Sunday Times. Here's Graham Turner.
Lord Thomson, Chairman of the Thomson Organisation, controls nearly a hundred newspapers as well as many radio and television stations in various parts of the world. But after tonight's announcement he said "I regard this opportunity to assist in the development of these two great newspapers as the greatest privilege of my life". Lord Thomson added that national newspapers today could not survive in isolation.