Harold Evans, one-time editor of the Sunday Times and long-time disparager of Rupert Murdoch, was all the gossip in Manhattan last night. After seven years as president of the the giant publisher Random House, he is clearing his desk and leaving.
That, though, was only half the excitement. Mr Evans, 69, is going back to daily journalism. From the beginning of next year, he is to be editorial director and vice-chairman of the group that publishes the New York Daily News.
Mr Evans (pictured above) protested that he was leaving Random House reluctantly, but that the opportunity presented to him by the owners of the News, Mort Zuckerman and Fred Drasner, was too much to resist. That is not hard to believe: the Daily News is the die-in-the-ditch rival of that other esteemed New York tabloid, the New York Post - owned by Mr Murdoch.
During his time in Fleet Street, Mr Evans was editor of the Sunday Times for 14 years from 1967 until 1981 and of the Times from 1981-82. He left in disgust with the new management that came in following Mr Murdoch's purchase of both papers. He gave public airing to those feelings in a best-selling book, Good Times, Bad Times.
Random House said that Mr Evans would be succeeded by Ann Godoff, at present editor-in-chief of Random House Adult Trade Books and executive vice-president of the Random House Trade Publishing Group.
While Mr Evans' position at Random House has ensured his continuing visibility, his profile might have been less but for his wife, Tina Brown, the current, and by most accounts eminently successful, editor of the New Yorker - owned also by Si Newhouse, proprietor of Random House. Rumours have been circulating that Mr Newhouse was unhappy with Random House and Mr Evans' performance. While the company has had its successes, including the recent autobiography of Colin Powell and the political satire Primary Colors, it has also suffered disappointments. The wisdom, however, has been that such was the importance of Ms Brown to the wider fortunes of Mr Newhouse, that Mr Evans' position would for ever be secure. Now we will never know.
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