I ONLY met Sir Gordon Linacre once, but I liked him instantly and that wasn’t just because he said he read this column.
It was 2009 at The Queens hotel in Leeds and he had discharged himself from hospital to attend the Variety Club’s Yorkshire Business Awards and receive the lifetime achievement award.
And what a life he led. Sir Gordon, who passed away last Thursday at the age of 94, was a twice-decorated wartime hero, expert fisherman and one of the great newspapermen of the 20th century.
This grammar school boy started his career in newspapers as a reporter in his home city of Sheffield at 17 and went on to become managing director of Yorkshire Conservative Newspapers, then owners of The Yorkshire Post, and later chief executive of United Newspapers, which owned the Daily Express and The Yorkshire Post.
I am grateful to Sir Gordon for deciding that business merited a newspaper of its own and introducing Business Post back in 1967, making history as the first regional newspaper to have its own business supplement.
“It was a handsome child, the first of its breed,” wrote Robin Morgan, the former northern industrial correspondent, in 2004.
Sir Gordon was a champion of Yorkshire business during an era of great industrial change as old industries collapsed and new ones emerged.
Business Post covered national business news with the attitude that it took over where the Financial Times left off, giving more space to local stories and able to include later breaking news.
“It’s a cliched expression but he made an immense contribution to the business community,” said Martin Shaw, a former senior partner at law firm Pinsent Masons.
“He understood the importance of business and also the prominence that he could give to Yorkshire business in the press. He understood the importance of encouraging growing businesses. He was one of the men who put Leeds on the map.”
Robin Smith, the former senior partner at law firm DLA Piper and a past president of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, remembered Sir Gordon as a remarkable man.
He said: “I first encountered him immediately after he had become chief executive of Yorkshire Post Newspapers.
“He already had huge experience of the newspaper industry and I was a young lawyer with little experience of anything!
“In some ways he could be intimidating - and I was then of an age at which I could be readily intimidated - but never for long.
“He liked people. I found over the years that he had a heart of gold which, allied with his intellectual skills and industry experience, made him a forthright and fair leader and a respected and popular man with all who came into contact with him.
“Gordon made a difference. He was listened to. He was able and articulate. He created confidence.
“He played a major role in reshaping the newspaper industry as it faced the upheavals of changing economics and new technology.
“I add that Gordon was a distinguished bomber pilot in the RAF during the Second World War. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
“He was one of ‘the few’ whose courage secured this country’s safety during those difficult years.”
Sir Gordon also played a significant role in the establishment of Opera North.
He once joked that Lord Harewood, who founded the group in 1978, asked him to be chairman so he could use the boardroom at The Yorkshire Post. “We had a wonderful chef there who made fantastic scotch eggs, which were a favourite of Lord Harewood’s,” said Sir Gordon.
When I met him, he seemed a man completely at ease with himself. After a life like that, who could fail to be anything else?