'I didn't want another long stint at Times': Stothard

Stothard: "10 years as editor is long enough"

Peter Stothard’s announcement to staff last week that he is to leave The Times was economical but nonetheless firm.

Later he told Press Gazette: "Ten years is a very long time to edit a national newspaper. I think they require massive effort and massive commitment and I think 10 years is quite enough to give that.

"I’d always intended to go this year but the timing depended on finding a proper successor. I genuinely haven’t decided what I am going to do. I am not going to do anything until the summer. I am going to have a few months off to think about it."

His departure had absolutely nothing to do with his health, he stipulated. "I almost feel I want to display the doctor’s report but I am completely fit. The condition I had, though dangerous at the time, was one that could be got rid of, and has been got rid of. I feel fantastic but I also felt I didn’t want to do another long stint here."

Colleagues think having a life-threatening illness, might have made him reassess his life.

"No, I don’t think so," said Stothard. "To be honest, I’ve almost forgotten about it now. Although we are taught in this modern age that these experiences scar you and change you, actually what is far more remarkable is what you forget rather than you remember."

There had been rumours of a big announcement all day last Thursday and at 6.35pm, Stothard told a couple of hundred staff in the newsroom: "I have spent 10 years in what I have always seen as the greatest job in journalism. I want to leave the editor’s chair when The Times is at a high point in its history, with circulation more than doubled and real profitability achieved for the first time this century and a team of journalists second to none in the English-speaking world. This is now as good a time as I could imagine."

With Rupert Murdoch legally able neither to hire nor fire staff for The Times, Stothard made a point of saying he took it the management had a candidate they could recommend to the board.

Murdoch sent a message: "As editor since 1992, Peter has led The Times through the greatest period of growth this century. Peter has attracted a team of unsurpassed talent and under his brilliant leadership produced one of the world’s finest newspapers."

Most colleagues believe Stothard will have something lined up. "It would be very unlike him as a character to step off into the unknown. He’s a planner and a strategist by nature – one of the reasons why he was a very successful editor," said one.

Stothard was banged out of the newsroom – a rare sight these days.

By Jean Morgan

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