Obituary: Dr Keith Howard, publisher and philanthropist

Dr Keith Howard, who has died at 89, was a Yorkshire publishing entrepreneur and philanthropist whose benefactions to the county cricket club and to Opera North helped secure the financial stability of both institutions.

Dr Keith Howard

He founded and owned Emerald Publishing, a Bingley operation which became an international leader in the dissemination of academic research. He set it up after an earlier career in mining engineering, studying at Leeds on a Coal Board scholarship and working for three years in South Africa with the diamond mining company, De Beers.

But he disliked the apartheid regime, and returned to Britain to complete his doctorate at Bradford University’s Management School – where he become director of its doctoral programme in management studies. It was there, as he completed a raft of publications on research and management science, there that the seeds of Emerald Publishing were sown. He founded it in 1967 and remained its chief executive or chairman until four years ago.

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Its success enabled him to indulge his twin passions for opera and cricket, and his generosity knew no bounds. For Opera North – which he and his wife, Pat, had supported since it was established at the Grand Theatre, Leeds, in 1978 – he helped fund the 2008 project which transformed parts of the theatre. Three years ago he donated £11m towards the company’s Music Works appeal.

Earlier, a similar sum had gone to the Yorkshire County Cricket Club to help develop the Emerald Stadium – a move prompted by suggestions that Headingley’s facilities were no longer up to hosting Test matches.

In all, the Emerald Foundation gave more than £1m a year to sports, arts and animal welfare charities in West Yorkshire.

Keith Howard was born in Manchester in August 1931, the son of Henry Howard, a theatre advertising salesman, and his wife Lilian (née Moore). The family moved to Horsforth and Keith was educated at Leeds Grammar, where as a juvenile he sang the role of Carmen in a production of Bizet’s opera, and was opening bowler for the 1st XI in a match against a team led by the former Yorkshire and England opening batsman Herbert Sutcliffe.

Also a keen rugby supporter and a patron of Leeds Rugby Foundation, Dr Howard was awarded the Prince of Wales’s personal medals for support for the arts in 2009 and an OBE in 2011. He and Pat (née Hainsworth) whom he married in 1952, had a daughter, Karen, a son, Nigel, who died in 1996, and three grandchildren.