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March 10, 2009

Tributes to Fleet Street legend Bert Hardy, dead at 80

By Jon Slattery

Bert Hardy, who started his newspaper career as a copy boy on the Picture Post aged 14 and went on to work for the Mirror Group, Associated and News International, has died aged 80.

Such was Hardy’s reputation as a newspaper manager that he came out of retirement aged 77 to become managing director of the London Evening Standard.

In an interview with Press Gazette, he was typically bullish.

“It’s been my judgment that Londoners want news. Where have all these people gone?” he said.

“They are still out there, and when there is a big news story, they are still buying the paper. We have to concentrate on producing an Evening Standard that everybody wants to buy.”

The Evening Standard job was Hardy’s second comeback after originally “retiring” in 1994 as chairman of the Standard.

He stepped down from his first post-retirement job as “caretaker” managing director of The Scotsman after a serious illness.

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Hardy admitted, after recovering from his illness, “I found myself bored out of my mind.”

He phoned then Associated Newspapers managing director Murdoch MacLennan because, “I had heard on the grapevine there were a couple of industry jobs coming up for new contracts and I asked if he would put a word in for me… instead he said: ‘Why don’t you come and work for me?'”

MacLennan, now chief executive of Telegraph Media Group, paid tribute to Hardy this afternoon.

“If anybody typified the term ‘big beast”‘ in the media industry it was Bert Hardy,” he said.

“Bert had a pivotal role in the building of Wapping and the creation of modern newspapers as well as contributing to the early success and growth of The Sun and News of the World.

“His work at Associated Newspapers, particularly with the Evening Standard, was outstanding.

“I shall remember him for his forensic ability to distinguish the facts from hype and spin. He was the newspaperman’s newspaperman and a good friend.”

Hardy spent 20 years at Mirror Group Newspapers in London and the regions, rising to advertisement director at the Glasgow-based Daily Herald.

He joined Rupert Murdoch in News International in 1969 as advertisement director of the News of the World and then The Sun before being promoted to chief executive.

He left The Sun in 1979 to become chief executive and later chairman of the Evening Standard.

Hardy became managing director of Associated Newspapers in 1989 after it bought Express Newspapers’ 50 per cent stake in the Evening Standard.

He “retired” in 1994 only to join Barclay brothers-owned Press Holdings as chief executive and deputy chairman, where he launched Sunday Business and oversaw the closure of The European in 1999.

He assisted with the acquisition of The Scotsman, where he acted as managing director.

Hardy rejoined Associated Newspapers in 2002 after recovering from a serious illness and was appointed managing director of the Evening Standard in September 2005.

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