My Mentor: Martin Townsend on Richard Desmond

'Richard knows the business inside out, and I've drawn on that shamelessly over the years'

I've worked for Richard Desmond for the last eight years - I joined
OK! in late 1996, became editor in 1999, and then editor of the
Sunday Express in 2001. And I've learnt so much from him.

I've worked for Richard Desmond for the last eight years - I joined OK! in late 1996, became editor in 1999, and then editor of the Sunday Express in 2001. And I've learnt so much from him.

For a start, he wants to be No 1, and that's why he frightens the life out of the Mail. He fires you up. I've no doubt that the spirit of a company trickles down from the top. He's a man of decision. If he says he's going to do something, he'll do it. He's also incredibly well organised and focused, and has a great memory. All that has rubbed off on me, and helped to make me a better editor.

For instance, on OK! we wanted to have the first pictures of Michael Jackson's baby; the first interview with Paula Yates after Michael Hutchence's death; the first pictures of the Posh and Becks wedding. And Richard taught me to be decisive in going after those things.

If I say, "I want this, it's going to cost this much", or, "I'm going to have to fly here", he'll just say, "Off you go", or, "Here's the cheque". To be able to respond with such speed gives you the edge. And Richard lets you get on with it. He responds to people who are hard-working, and I had an amazingly free hand at OK!, and still have at the Express.

He might not be a journalist, but Richard has published just about every kind of magazine imaginable, and knows the business inside out. That expertise is something I've drawn on shamelessly over the years.

Working for Richard has made me a better manager of people. If you're reasonable and patient with your staff, you'll get the best out of them. I've never believed in ranting and raving. And whatever you've read about Richard, his touch is surprisingly light.

Lastly, being an editor is about doing deals, and Richard has taught me that a deal's not a deal unless both sides are satisfied. So much that you hear about Richard is mythology. I'm proud to call him my mentor.

Martin Townsend is the editor of the 'Sunday Express'

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