Lady Stevens: the hand that rocked the editor's chair?

DID Eve fall or was she pushed by the boss's wife? Newspaper gossips are divided.

Some say Eve Pollard's sudden departure last week from the editor's chair at the Sunday Express was the climax of a series of disagreements with Lord Stevens, the paper's chairman, according to one theory. Others link it more conspiratorially to Lady Stevens's friendship with the Princess of Wales, through the affair of the phantom phone-calls.

A few facts, and rather more suppositions, support the second of those explanations for After the downfall of one of the few female editors of a national newspaper - known to viewers for her appearances on television game shows and fashion programmes, and to her staff as a demanding taskmistress - both theories had their supporters.

The story that police had investigated a succession of irksome anonymous telephone calls to Oliver Hoare, a close friend of the princess, broke in the News of the World last Sunday. But it had been due to run in the Daily Express - edited by Eve Pollard's husband, Sir Nicholas Lloyd - three days earlier, until pulled at the last minute, apparently on Lord Stevens's instructions.

When it was clear that the story was about to break elsewhere, Ms Pollard was allowed to publish it in the Sunday Express, under a joint byline that included John Twomey, the Daily Express reporter whose original scoop had been stifled. But the headline, 'Diana Phone Pest Riddle', is said to have annoyed Lord and Lady Stevens because it implied that the princess had indeed made the disputed calls.

Next day the Daily Mail published an interview with the princess in which she denied doing any such thing. She offered detailed alibis for the dates and times that /when some of/ the calls were said to have been made. Among them was the claim that on 13 January, when one of the calls was made, she 'was lunching in Mayfair with Lady Stevens, the wife of newspaper proprietor Lord Stevens'.

Another lunch that both women attended, some time later, may be more significant. Last month Ross Benson, the Daily Express gossip columnist who is counted as a supporter of the Prince Charles in the Waleses' couple's family dispute, was surprised to be invited to lunch at short notice by Lord Stevens. When he arrived at the executive dining room, overlooking the Thames at Blackfriars, he was surprised to find Lady Stevens and the princess among the handful of guests. The object was to get him to rethink his support for the prince. Sir Nicholas Lloyd was also at the table but, perhaps significantly, his wife Eve was absent.

Lady Stevens is a Russian-born former photographer named Meriza Giori. She is Lord Stevens's third wife: the first left him to bring up their two children by himself and the second choked to death on a peach in 1989. He married Ms. Giori less than a year after the bereavement, following a whirlwind courtship. While she shuns the limelight, she relishes the social obligations that come with being married to a man who, though not technically a press proprietor, is chairman of a company (United Newspapers) that owns threetwo national titles.

Any friend of the princess's would have been upset by last weekend's reports. However, some Express staffers say that if last Sunday's lead story did play a role in Ms Pollard's abrupt departure, it was only to trigger an inevitable parting.

There have been persistent reports about differences between Lord Stevens and Ms. Pollard, almost since she was hired from the Sunday Mirror more than three years ago. One much-repeated story has her almost reduced to tears after a particularly heated discussion with the chairman. His alleged comment: 'Now you know how your staff feel.'

Staff turnover was high and morale low during her tenure and, more seriously, the paper's circulation remained in decline. In the Fifties and Sixties it would sell up to four 4 million copies a week, but when she took it over in 1991 it was down to little more than 1.5 million.

A change from broadsheet to tabloid format soon after she started took over boosted sales to just not far short of 2 million, but last month they were below 1.5 million, having dropped 10 per cent over the past year. On top of that, she has been the victim of a sustained campaign in the satirical fortnightly Private Eye, which has published damaging stories about her, emanating from disaffected staff.

'There's been a thrill, or a spill or a crisis every week,' said one staffer. 'It's very unsettling, especially for a paper in decline as ours is.' Another addedcommented: 'It's been like working in a concentration prison camp.'

Lord Stevens was said to have been further angered by reports last year that the Lloyds were looking into the possibility of spearheading a buyout of the Express titles from United Newspapers. They denied it, but now that Ms Pollard has departed there is inevitably speculation about Sir Nicholas's position. His newspaper's circulation is in no better shape than his wife's, down 8.79 per cent year-on-the year at 1.33 million. Suppressing stories that offend the chairman's wife seems an improbable way of stemming the decline.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there