The Oldie and I

It’s not very often that I take the decision to put the record straight when the subject matter concerns an investment of mine where for many years I was the majority shareholder.

In an article in the Sunday Times of two weeks ago on the saga of his resignation from the Oldie, which he edited since its inception, Richard Ingrams wrote that he could not remember the extent of my financial contribution to the magazine, but recalls it wasn’t enough to keep it afloat.

Well, this statement, I’m afraid to say, is misleading and far from being accurate.

In 1994 the Oldie’s capital stood at £720,000. My own contribution was £540,000, of which £300,000 I had borrowed personally from Barclays at a time when interest rates were cripplingly high. When Paul Getty became proprietor for a short period my losses were in excess of £800,000, an amount which quite frankly I could not sustain.

In retrospect, however, I’m still delighted I backed the Oldie from the very beginning, notwithstanding the fact that the media, as a whole, thought I was bonkers to involve myself in such a mad enterprise which they claimed was destined to failure.

I fervently believed then that the older generation needed a magazine they could associate with and in a medium likely to give them a voice and no end of entertainment. The eventual success of the venture proved the cynics wrong.

During his long tenure as editor, Richard Ingrams moulded the magazine in his own idiosyncratic image to suit its readership and, as such, he will always be remembered as its benevolent creator.

In the present circumstances, I hope that the Oldie, under its new editor Alexander Chancellor, will continue to prosper and remain a viable force, catering for people of a certain age, as opposed to the current trend of discarding the old in favour of the young.

Oldies, contrary to public perception, have still a lot to offer. It would be unwise to write them off.

Ignore them at your peril; they’re capable of biting you, even if their teeth are sometimes not their own.

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