Professor Barrie Pettman, publisher and philanthropist

Professor Barrie Pettman, who has died at 73, was a Yorkshire publishing entrepreneur and management guru, and a Scottish baron.
Prof Barrie PettmanProf Barrie Pettman
Prof Barrie Pettman

The co-founder of Emerald Group Publishing, editor of a raft of scholarly journals and president emeritus of Burke’s Peerage, Prof Pettman was also a leading philanthropist with a strong belief in helping musically gifted children fulfil their potential.

He was a founding patron of Opera North and was instrumental in generating support for the company in Hull, where he had, years earlier, lectured in his specialist subject of industrial relations.

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In 2010, he established the Pettman Dare scholarship scheme for students from the EU and New Zealand to work with Opera North while studying at Leeds University. He also supported the East Riding of Yorkshire Choir, and was a donor to the refurbishment of the Grand Theatre in Leeds, which named a room in his honour.

Richard Mantle, Opera North’s general director, said Prof Pettman’s generosity had assisted countless young people in the pursuit of their dreams.

“His sharp intelligence and sense of mischief, his great love of Mozart and Haydn, rivalled by his sometimes vocal dislike of Wagner and Strauss, will all be keenly missed,” Mr Mantle said.

Born in the East Riding into a fishing industry family, Prof Pettman graduated from Hull University, and went on to what is now the Cass Business School in London.

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He was fond of styling himself Baron of Bombie, having acquired the barony of a farming hamlet in Kirkcudbright from Sir David Hope Dunbar, of the Scottish financial services company, Allied Dunbar. Sir David apparently had a title or two to spare, and in Scottish law, a title can be passed outside the family. The Bombie coat of arms features two closed books.

Prof Pettman’s fascination with the baronetcy led him in 2005 to oversee the publication of a Yorkshire edition of Burke’s Landed Gentry, the first in its 179-year history.

He had put a tidy sum of his own money into republishing the work, which had not appeared in any form for 33 years. After printing an updated edition of the main book, he and his partners brought out a Scottish version, and them embarked upon giving each English region its own dedicated volume.

He admitted that, his personal interest in genealogy notwithstanding, the “Ridings of York” edition would probably not make money, even at £149 a copy. It was, he said, a labour of love that took several researchers 18 months to compile, even with 2,000 of the entries ready to poach from the main book.

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“The traditional national version of Burke’s has a bias towards the South,” he told The Yorkshire Post at the time.

“We also thought it was time for Burke’s Landed Gentry to recognise that social patterns are very different now from when the book was first published in 1826.”

Just how different was reflected in the listing of the Leeds actress Liz Dawn, Coronation Street’s Vera Duckworth, alongside Dame Judi Dench, who qualified for inclusion as the daughter of a York GP. The Labour politician John Prescott declined to be listed.

Prof Pettman later acquired the publishing rights to Burke’s Peerage, but his literary life dated back to the late 1960s, when he joined academics at Bradford University who had formed their own management consultancy. It evolved into the Emerald group, a successful publisher of academic journals, based in Bingley. Pettman became its chairman and also served as editor of titles such as the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy and Equal Opportunities International.

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He wrote books on industrial relations and in 1999 was co-author of What Self-Made Millionaires Really Think, Know and Do. By then, he was in a position to know, having become one himself. He described the book as “a straight-talking guide to business success and personal riches”.

He and his third wife, Maureen, divided their time between a large estate at Patrington near Hull, on which he developed a nine-hole golf course, and a winter home in New Zealand. Mrs Pettman, whom he married in 1992, survives him.

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