Charles Moore resigned as editor of The Daily Telegraph yesterday after eight years to concentrate on his biography of Baroness Thatcher.
The Old Etonian maintained the Telegraph's advantage over The Times during the recent price war but the paper's daily circulation recently fell below one million.
Moore, who will be replaced by Martin Newland, a former home editor of The Daily Telegraph, would not comment yesterday on the deteriorating health of Lady Thatcher, who has sanctioned the biography.
Moore said he had asked to step down in July at a meeting with Lord Black of Crossharbour, the proprietor of the Telegraph group. He will return in the spring of next year as a columnist and "group consulting editor".
Newland, 41, who was deputy editor of the National Post in Canada, has been out of work since May when Lord Black sold the newspaper. He is regarded as one of the press baron's golden boys. Moore said Newland was "quite a dark horse" but praised his successor's talents as a journalist. He said his decision to give up the editor's seat was driven by the demands of his writing schedule. "I felt I had to get on with it. I just need to concentrate. I really need to buckle down."
Mr Newland said his priority was to improve the paper's already strong news coverage. "I'm certainly not coming in like a bull in a china shop," he said. "Continuity is the thing here."
He said he wanted to attract more young readers but was anxious not to offend traditional Telegraph buyers, who he described as "wealthy, intelligent and worthy".
Moore, 46, said the decision last month by The Times to raise the cover price of its Saturday edition to that of The Daily Telegraph was the armistice in a price war that began before he became editor in 1995.
"That has been the governing condition of my editorship," he said. "Their effort was to be the market leader and they have evidently failed to achieve that."
Ironically, the Telegraph has benefited from the decline of the Conservative Party, which has let the paper emerge as a voice of opposition and a champion of the liberties of those living in the shire counties.
Moore's editorship has also been heavily influenced by The Daily Telegraph's efforts to address the problem of its ageing readership. He has angered some Telegraph grandees by dispensing with the Peterborough diary column in favour of London Spy, and hiring Irvine Welsh, the author of Trainspotting.
Moore said the paper was now more amusing as well as better argued and better written. But critics have mocked the Telegraph's latest gothic masthead as being a turn-off to young readers and have highlighted a falling circulation that is threatening to dip below 900,000 for the first time in more than 50 years as evidence of the paper's continuing decline.
Lord Black said he was parting with Moore "with reluctance". But the Canadian press baron's holding company, Hollinger, has severe financial problems and he can ill afford under-performance by the Telegraph, which was founded in 1855.
Newland, described by Lord Black as an "outstanding journalist", will take over at the end of next week.
He will be expected to reverse the fall in sales.
* Considers story that George Galloway took payments from Saddam Hussein his greatest scoop despite becoming embroiled in legal tussle with the Labour MP.
* Successfully countered The Times during a long price war to remain Britain's biggest selling broadsheet.
* This year's £8m relaunch combined an updated look with a traditional feel. Signed Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh, Anne Robinson and Alan Hansen as new columnists.
* Circulation, excluding bulk sales, fell below the 1 million mark in September 2002 for the first time in nearly 50 years.
* Censured by the Press Complaints Commission for publishing details of Euan Blair's university application in January 2002.
* Criticised for breaking the PCC code over payments to Jonathan Aitken's daughter Victoria in July 1999.Reuse content