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June 24, 2014

Alexander Chancellor on taking over from Richard Ingrams at The Oldie: I need a bit of money and it’s better than feeding chickens

By William Turvill

Alexander Chancellor (pictured above: BBC) is prepared for a dip in circulation at The Oldie magazine following the departure of Richard Ingrams.

The former Spectator editor, who helped Ingrams found the magazine 22 years ago, started last week following Ingrams’ resignation on 30 May after he was summoned to a disciplinary hearing brought by publisher James Pembroke.

Ingrams has been critical of Chancellor, 74, for taking the position, describing him as a "bloody fool". But the new editor has said he is hopeful he will one day win back Ingrams' support.

On his new job, Chancellor told Press Gazette: “It is a nice base to have. I’m sure it may well lose some circulation because it was so heavily identified with Richard. I wouldn’t be astonished if that happened.”

On unveiling him as editor, Pembroke suggested that Chancellor, who has also worked on newspaper magazines, could bring the title’s circulation up to 60,000.

Last week, outgoing sub-editor Deborah Asher described the “low morale” and “anger” within the central London office. But Chancellor, who spoke to Press Gazette only two days into his new job, said: “It is not at all acrimonious.”

He added: “It is not some sort of dramatic act of protest… unless they are hiding it from me. The ones that are leaving have been incredibly helpful.”

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On their leaving, Chancellor said: “A changing of editor is the sort of moment when people think about whether they should stay and that sort of thing.”

Since Ingrams handed in his resignation, which he said he was forced into doing after he was summoned to a disciplinary hearing, at least 13 contributors – many of them regular – have departed the magazine.

“I cannot be too upset about that,” Chancellor said. “I’m sad about a few people, but then it gives a bit more space in the magazine for bringing in other people.”

Chancellor said he wants to keep the magazine in the same “spirit” as Ingrams did, but said he would be open to making stylistic changes and commissioning more features, rather than using as many regular columns.

The new editor has said he would not have taken the job if there was any chance Ingrams could have been given his job back.

Chancellor, who will be keeping up his column in the Spectator, said: “I feel he is in an emotional state about it all. It has been his whole life for 22 years.”

He added: “I have known him so long and quite well [that] I’m hoping when a bit of time passes he will feel better about it…

“I’m sad that Richard’s upset about it, but I do not exactly feel guilty or disloyal or anything. Because why would I in a way?”

Asked whether he has any concerns about working under Pembroke, in light of his falling out with Ingrams, Chancellor said: “No, I do not on the basis of my own experience of him. He seems very nice. And also he does all of that marketing and everything brilliantly.”

Asked why he applied for the job, Chancellor said: “I thought I could do it better than some people, keeping it going and the readers wouldn’t be as shocked as some other people taking over.”

Chancellor added: “I have spent a large chunk of my life fiddling about with magazines. I enjoy doing it. It’s a bit of a stimulant in my old age, instead of feeding chickens.

“And also it’s a bit of income. Richard points this out every time he writes an article, but it’s true. I do need a bit of money… It makes a difference.”

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