Ron Wordley

Former chairman of HTV
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The Independent Online

Ronald William Wordley, television executive: born London 16 June 1928; managing director, HTV 1978-87, chairman 1985-86; chairman, Buckingham Group (Winslow Press) 1987-93; married 1953 Pamela Offord (two sons, one daughter, and one son deceased); died Bath 1 June 2003.

Ron Wordley was managing director and later chairman of HTV, the independent television company serving Wales and the West Country. He successfully oversaw the company's move in the Principality from Pontcanna to new studios at Culverhouse Cross in 1984, a move that threatened to stretch the company financially, but which Wordley carried off with great success.

His television career had begun with Anglia Television. He moved west in 1967, shortly after the consortium led by Lord Harlech and backed by Wynford Vaughn Thomas, Stanley Baker and Richard Burton had obtained the ITV franchise in succession to Television Wales and West (TWW). Initially he was the sales controller, responsible for bringing in the advertising revenue.

The ejection of TWW and its replacement with Harlech (later HTV) was the great shock of the franchising round of 1967. Harlech was barely ready to take on its responsibilities, and securing strong advertising revenues and high cash flow was essential if the company was to succeed.

In 1978 Wordley's decisive nature, strong character and great capacity for achievement were rewarded by his appointment as managing director, responsible for the twin operations from Bristol and Cardiff. The Culverhouse Cross studios, just outside the Welsh capital, were at the time one of the largest television complexes in Europe.

Ron Wordley - never Ronald or Mr Wordley - was born in 1928 in London, where he was educated at Barnet Grammar School and the City of London College. He was commissioned from Sandhurst into the Royal Artillery in 1947 and served for three years in Malaya before seeing active service in the Korean War. On one occasion while in the Far East a gunshot whistled past his shoulder, hitting a glass of single malt at the bar where he was standing. Back in Britain he joined the Army Air Corps Cadre - "better parties", he liked to say.

In 1958 he resigned his commission and flirted with Unilever as a management trainee before moving to Anglia Television as a sales executive. He remained as managing director of HTV until 1987, serving as chairman in 1985-86.

Wordley loved boats - especially big ones - and he enjoyed entertaining his advertising clients in lavish style. Nowhere more so than at the Cannes television festival, where on one occasion he had sailed them out to sea on a hired yacht when the engine packed in. Fortunately the entire gathering was safely rescued. In his last months he drew pictures of boats he had known for his grandchildren.

Some of his humour and vocabulary were unrepeatable, and he was nothing if not direct in his views. On one occasion he was staring out of a window while chairing a board meeting at HTV when he noticed some youths tampering with his car. He calmly got up, flung open the window and assailed the vandals in fruity tones before returning to the meeting as if nothing had happened.

Wordley's supreme organisational skills served him well, and his booming voice meant everyone at HTV knew when he was heading down their corridor. Nevertheless, he was a man of professional integrity who met everyone on their own terms. He also served as a director of ITN, and, from 1986 to 1991, as honorary patron of the Royal Regiment of Wales.

Ron Wordley relished the opportunities that television brought, and accepted his role at the business end of the medium. "I am not personally creative," he would say, "but I make it possible for other people to create. I enable."

Tim Bullamore