Andrew Neil

Andrew Neil

name = Andrew Ferguson Neil

caption =
birth_date = birth date and age|1949|05|21|df=y
birth_place = Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland
occupation = BBC journalist, author and television presenter
salary =
networth =
website =

Andrew Ferguson Neil (born 21 May 1949, Paisley, Scotland) is a Scottish journalist and broadcaster. Neil made his name at "The Sunday Times" where he was editor for 11 years. In 1995 he was made editor-in-chief of the Press Holdings group of newspapers, owner of "The Business" and (from 2005) "The Spectator", moving to become chairman in July 2008. Press Holdings sold "The Scotsman" in December 2005, ending Neil's relationship with the newspaper. Press Holdings is owned by the Barclay brothers.

Early life and career

The son of a professional soldier who had worked his way up through the ranks, Neil was educated at Paisley Grammar School and at the University of Glasgow,cite web |url = |title = Andrew Neil |date = 2004-06-10 |publisher = BBC] where he edited the student newspaper, the "Glasgow University Guardian". At university he was a member of the Dialectic Society and the Conservative Club and participated in inter-varsity debates. He graduated in 1971 with an MA in political economy and political science. After graduation he briefly worked as sports correspondent for the local newspaper the "Paisley Daily Express" before working for the Conservative Party as a research assistant and then joined "The Economist" as a correspondent in 1973, and was later promoted to being the editor of the publication's section on Britain.

At "The Sunday Times"

Neil was editor of "The Sunday Times" from 1983 until 1994. His editorship was controversial. Neil, it was argued, was appointed by Rupert Murdoch over more experienced colleagues, like Hugo Young.

Opposition to perceived public school and Oxbridge attitudes were a hallmark of Neil's "Sunday Times" editorship. During his editorship he was also responsible for the revelation that Cecil Parkinson's secretary (and mistress), Sara Keays, was pregnant with his (Parkinson's) child. Parkinson, then a rising Conservative cabinet minister, was forced to resign. The two men were actually old friends; Neil had shared a flat with Parkinson when he first began working in London.

The newspaper also lost a libel case over claims it had made concerning a witness interviewed in the "Death on the Rock" documentary on the Gibraltar shootings. Neil won a second defamation case when he sued Sir Peregrine Worsthorne over claims that he was unfit to edit a serious newspaper following the Bordes case (see below). Neil won £1000 and costs.

"The Sunday Times" during this period promoted a fringe and later discredited argument that, in Africa, AIDS was a quite separate condition from HIV.


In 1988 he also became founding chairman of Sky TV, also part of Murdoch's News Corporation. Neil was instrumental in the company's launch, overseeing the transformation of a down market, single channel satellite service into a four channel network in less than a year. He also brought "The Simpsons" to UK television. [Martin Rosenbaum [ "Is The Simpsons still subversive?"] , BBC News, 29 June 2007. Retrieved on 27 April 2008.] Neil and Murdoch stood side by side at Sky's new headquarters in west London on February 5, 1989 to witness the launch of the service at 18.00. Sky was not an instant success; the uncertainty caused by the competition provided by British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) and the initial shortage of satellite dishes were early problems.

The failure of BSB in November 1990 led to a merger, although few programmes acquired by BSB were screened on Sky One, and BSB's satellites were sold. The new company was called British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB). The merger may have saved Sky financially; despite its popularity, Sky had very few major advertisers to begin with, and was also beginning to suffer from embarrassing breakdowns. Acquiring BSB's healthier advertising contracts and equipment apparently solved these problems. BSkyB would not make a profit for a decade but is now one of the most profitable and successful television companies in Europe.

Post-News Corp career

He eventually parted company with Murdoch on bad terms and became a writer for the "Daily Mail". In 1996 he became editor-in-chief of the Barclay brothers Press Holdings group of newspapers, owner of "The Scotsman", "Sunday Business" (later just "The Business") and "The European". Neil has not enjoyed great success with the circulations of the newspapers (indeed "The European" folded shortly after he took over)."The Business" also closed down in February 2008. He exchanged his role as Chief Executive of Press Holdings for Chairman in July 2008. [Stephen Brook [ "Neil takes step back from Spectator",] "The Guardian" (website), 8 July 2008.]

In June 2008, Neil led a consortium which bought talent agency PFD from CSS Stellar plc for £4 million. Neil will be chairman of the new company in addition to his other activities. [Stephen Brook [ "Andrew Neil consortium buys PFD talent agency",] "The Guardian" website, 18 June 2008.]


As well as Neil's newspaper activities he has also maintained a television career. While working at "The Economist" he provided news reports, for example to American networks. When at "The Sunday Times" he contributed to BBC radio and television as well as commenting on the various controversies provoked by the paper in his role as Editor. During the 1990s Neil fronted political programmes for the BBC, notably "Despatch Box" on BBC Two, and the interview show "Is This Your Life?" (made by Open Media for Channel 4). Following the revamp of the BBC's political programming in early 2003 Neil has been the presenter of the BBC One weekly political roundup show, "This Week", and co-presenter of "The Daily Politics" which broadcasts every day that Parliament sits. In November 2004 it was announced that Neil was to become Chief Executive of "The Spectator". Neil served as Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews from 1999 - 2002.

Neil often castigates the British establishment, many of whom he deems to be politically correct but snobbish or ethnically-biased in their perceptions. Teaming up on "This Week", the BBC One programme he presents with Tory ex-leadership candidate and maverick, Michael Portillo, and leftwing Hackney MP, Diane Abbott, (the two are old school friends) has helped to soften his image and widen his appeal after he was judged unsuitable to present the BBC's flagship news programme "Newsnight".

Lawsuits and "Private Eye"

While at "The Sunday Times" in 1988, Neil met the former Miss India, Pamella Bordes, in a nightclub. The "News of the World" suggested she was an up-market prostitute. This led to Neil's bringing a libel action against Sir Peregrine Worsthorne for an article in "The Sunday Telegraph" in which Worsthorne asserted that Neil was not fit to edit a Sunday newspaper, on the grounds that "playboys should not be editors". Neil won £1,000 and costs. A much commented-upon revelation from Bordes was that Neil's hair-dye stained the pillow-cases.

A photograph of Neil in a vest and baseball cap, embracing a much younger woman, ran over several editions of satirical magazine "Private Eye", after it became known that he found the picture embarrassing. It still surfaces periodically, on the flimsiest of excuses. A long-running joke within the letters page is that a reader will ask the editor if he has any photographs related to a topic pertaining to this photo in some way. The photograph is dutifully published alongside the letter. The photograph is of a woman whom Neil was briefly involved with while in the United States in the early nineties [Mary Riddell [ "Non-stop Neil, at home alone"] , "British Journalism Review", Vol. 16, No. 2, 2005, p13-20.] and is frequently accompanied in the paper by jokes about the woman's ethnicity. Neil has found "fascinating" what he sees as an example of "public school racism" on the part of the "Eye"'s editorial staff.

The magazine nicknamed him Brillo Pad, after his wiry hair. In addition, it often misspells his surname with an extra L, in reference to Neil's affair with Pamella Bordes, whose name is written with an unusual number of Ls.


External links

* [ Archive of Neil's recent articles at The Scotsman]
* [,6903,628106,00.html Observer: Biography]
* [ The Business Magazine: Publisher in Chief]
* [ BBC News: Biography]
* [ "The Daily Politics" website]
* [ Toby Young article in Vanity Fair]
* [ Andrew Neil interview] , Rob McGibbon, Access Interviews, 15 February 2008

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