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News > Annoucements > MANDER, Michael Stuart

MANDER, Michael Stuart

You are warmly welcomed to leave a message below, share your memories, and celebrate the life of Michael Mander, who we sadly lost in 2022.
16 Mar 2022
Written by Tara Biddle

The following obituary was published in The Times on Wednesday 16 March 2022

Times Newspaper executive who tried to outmanoeuvre striking print workers in the Seventies by moving production overseas.

Mander c 1978. He had joined Times Newspapers as advertising and marketing director before rising up the ranks

As a senior executive of Times Newspapers, the distinguished-looking, ever-immaculate Michael Mander hardly expected he would be obliged to wear a cap and dark glasses to avoid being recognised. Yet that became necessary in 1979 when he was given the task of printing The Times overseas. The paper was in the midst of an 11-month shutdown as the management tried in vain to agree redundancies with the print unions and disputes procedures to forestall the wildcat strikes that had been costing millions of pounds a year.

The chief executive, Marmaduke Hussey, decided a dramatic gesture was needed. According to The Story of The Times by Oliver Woods and James Bishop, he thought a revived international edition would boost morale and, “if it could be successfully produced in defiance of the unions, persuade them to return to the negotiating table in a more conciliatory frame of mind”. It was a naive misjudgment.

Mander, Hussey’s slightly built deputy, was ordered to find a suitable foreign printer. After several hush-hush trips he came up with three possibilities, in Frankfurt, Miami and Virginia.

The Frankfurt site, owned by the Istanbul daily Tercüman, was preferred because it would involve less travelling time for the production staff and the printworkers there were mostly unionised. Mander hoped that would make it “less provocative”. However, it would mean ditching the hot metal then obligatory in printing UK papers in favour of modern offset presses.

The plan was to fly a weekly 35,000 copies to 64 countries where The Times had been sold before the shutdown. “It will be quite recognisably The Times,” down to the crossword puzzle, he said.

However, Mander was rumbled. Word reached the London unions three days before the date for printing the first edition that Frankfurt was the location and Tercüman was the printer. He donned his dark glasses as more than 100 pickets gathered outside. Immediately before the presses were due to roll, an attempt was made to blow up the plant. Mander said that, separately, a petrol-soaked rag had been found stuffed through an external vent into a pipe to the plant’s compressor. If that had ignited it could also have exploded. One of The Times staff was knocked unconscious, needing stitches for knife and club wounds.

They printed 10,000 copies on the first day but the local police chief warned that, while he might be able to mobilise 500 policemen, the pickets could grow to 10,000 on the following May Day weekend.

“What I didn’t know,” Mander said, “was that the Frankfurt region was then a hotbed of heavy-handed revolutionary organisations, which would embrace the chance to disrupt the printing of a capitalist newspaper being produced against the wishes of UK print unions. If we had gone to either Miami or Virginia there would have been no likelihood of bloody confrontations. Although the freight and travel costs would have been higher, they would have been offset by lower printing costs.”

Mander in Portugal c 2005. He had a house near Santa Bárbara de Nexe in the Algarve

A few days later the plant owner’s car was machine-gunned on his way to the office. Although he was unhurt, Mander decided he could not put more lives at risk and pulled out of Frankfurt.

Publication resumed in London in November that year, when the unions agreed redundancies and productivity improvements minutes before a management-imposed deadline for permanent closure. The following July the National Union of Journalists began a strike over a 21 per cent pay rise. Enraged, the owner, Lord Thomson of Fleet, put the papers up for sale.

Mander said: “My biggest mistake was in concentrating on the technical and practical problems involved in printing abroad, and not paying sufficient attention to the political environment. It taught me that you must look at a problem in the round, not just at the logistics. In retrospect, it was an extraordinary mistake to make.”

Michael Stuart Mander was born in London in 1935, one of three children of Stuart Mander, an executive with George Newnes, the TitBits, Strand Magazine and Nova publisher, and Alice, née Peaker.

Michael attended Tonbridge School in Kent. He did National Service with the Green Howards in 1954-56, serving in the UK, Cyprus and Egypt and becoming a lieutenant. He was put in charge of the picturesque Kyrenia castle, on the coast of Cyprus.

Mander won a place at Oxford but decided not to take it up after the army. With the help of his father’s contacts, he joined Associated Newspapers, publisher of the now-defunct London Evening News, where he became executive director.

By 1970 high wages and growing competition for advertising revenue from television were imperilling the finances of many Fleet Street papers. As part of a reshuffle at Times Newspapers, Hussey was poached from Harmsworth Publications to be chief executive. As Harmsworth and Associated were part of the same stable, he knew Mander, recruiting him as advertising and marketing director.

After the sale of The Times and Sunday Times to Rupert Murdoch in 1981, Mander moved to the Thomson Organisation’s magazines division, joined the Thomson board and was appointed chairman and chief executive of Thomson Information Services. He became chairman of Janes Publishing and Thomson Directories. He later moved to New York to be a director of Thomson Publishing US.

At home in 2010 in the Cotswolds with his dog Bobby

In 1986 he started a City career as a director of the merchant bank Hill Samuel and then became director of corporate finance at another bank, Close Brothers. He later became a director of Southnews and non-executive chairman of Maid, subsequently renamed the Dialog Corporation.

Mander was a chairman and vice-president of the Institute of Directors from 1993 until 2004, when the previously right-wing organisation was accused of cosying up to the Blair government. He quit after a disagreement with the director-general, George Cox.

A single man who had no children, he enjoyed photography, marine art, skiing and sailing. For many years he owned a boat, Mon Tour, based at Hamble on Southampton Water in Hampshire. He had a house in Portugal, close to Santa Bárbara de Nexe in the Algarve.

He became a regular newspaper correspondent, in 2011 offering unusual advice for anyone disliking opera but wanting to be seen at Covent Garden.

“You buy two tickets,” Mander said, “but don’t turn up until 20 minutes before the interval. You go straight to the Crush Bar, where you take the best table and order two bottles of champagne. You finish the first one when the audience comes in for the interval. After the second bottle you take your seats and fall asleep, avoiding the incredible boredom of what is on stage. You wake at the curtain calls, applauding ecstatically in the knowledge that it is all over.”

Michael Mander, newspaper executive, was born on October 5, 1935. He died from complications following a fall on February 8, 2022, aged 86.

(Sc 49-52)

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