Obituary:George Goyder

George Goyder combined a successful business career with a wide range of other interests and an unfailing enthusiasm for anything that would make for a more civilised society. In his 88 years, he fitted in at least five different lives, any one of which would have kept most people fully engaged. He was a businessman, a social philosopher and reformer, an author, a distinguished collector of rare books and, not least, a paterfamilias.

On leaving school he first thought of ordination but decided that his proper vocation was business. He set off to the United States at the age of 21, in 1930, at the height of the Depression, not the most opportune of times; but five years later he was back in Britain as the managing director of the British subsidiary of the International Paper Company. He was to be its chairman and chief executive for the next 38 years.

In May 1940, still only 31, he was asked by Lord Beaverbrook to set up, unpaid and in his own time, the Newsprint Supply Company, to organise and manage the supply and distribution of newsprint in Britain for the duration of the Second World War. "A brilliant success," said Lord Camrose after the war. Justice and efficiency were the company's objectives, and these were to be the twin themes of Goyder's business philosophy.

His books The Future of Private Enterprise (1951), The Responsible Company (1961) and The Just Enterprise (1987) explored these themes; their ideas often seemed too radical for the corporate palate. In his last months Goyder was delighted by the growing interest in the work of the Centre for Tomorrow's Company, which owes a big intellectual debt to Goyder's work.

Outside Goyder's business and writings, the Church of England was central to his life, and he was one of the architects of synodical government. In his writings and speeches on the Church, as with business, it was Goyder's fate to be a generation ahead of time in his thinking, something which must have been frustrating for him and irritating for his contemporaries.

Goyder also set about becoming a serious collector of rare and important books, and became an expert on the literature of the English Reformation and the works of William Blake. His library included, for a time, the only known copy of the Book of Common Prayer printed in 1572 and an early copy of Tyndale's New Testament (1536), as well as a rare copy of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience. He was a co-founder in 1949 of the Blake Trust and a president of the William Blake Society.

Perhaps, however, his most profound happiness came from his large and extended family, and from his wife, Rosemary, without whose unstinting support he could not have bestrode all the worlds that he did. When he died they had eight children, 23 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He leaves behind him not only this whole tribe but the memory of a man who believed that with God's grace a man can do anything he wants to.

Charles Handy

George Armin Goyder, businessman, social philosopher, book collector: born 22 June 1908; managing director, British International Paper Ltd 1935-71; general manager, Newsprint Supply Co 1940-47; CBE 1976; married 1937 Rosemary Bosanquet (five sons, three daughters); died 19 January 1997.

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