Lord Hamlyn

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Biographical Information

THE LORD HAMLYN OF EDGEWORTH (died in 2001). "In 1972 he established the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, a charitable trust (valued in 1996 at £64 million) to funnel money to help disabled and underprivileged people and the arts. Among other causes, he donated substantial sums to the Bodleian Library, the Royal Opera House and the British Museum; he also made countless grants to smaller groups and individuals... But it was his political largesse that attracted the most public attention. When Paul Hamlyn was made a life peer by Tony Blair in 1999, it was said to have been for Hamlyn's generosity towards the arts and charities rather than to the Labour Party; yet his importance to the party could not be underestimated.

"In the run up to the 1997 general election, he donated at least £500,000, more than half the promotional funding for Road to the Manifesto (1996), the document which, probably more than any other, established the "new" credentials of New Labour. In January 2001 he announced that he had donated a further £2 million, the largest single donation ever received by the party and a tenth of the amount needed to cover the forthcoming election campaign...

"Hamlyn seldom read books himself and was long regarded by the literary establishment as a flashy outsider: "We can't have the likes of Paul Hamlyn in British publishing," expostulated Harold Macmillan. But while many more traditional publishers foundered or were bought out by larger rivals, Hamlyn prospered.

"He made his first million in 1964 when he sold out to Cecil King's IPC for £2.25 million, joining the board to take over their book division. The following year he branched out into records, founding the popular "Classics for Pleasure" label with EMI. Hamlyn left IPC in 1970 following disagreements over the terms of a bid by Reed. He then spent 18 months working with Rupert Murdoch at the News of the World as joint managing director.

"While working with Murdoch, he began his second publishing venture, Octopus Books, with W H Smith as sole distributor. It became a publishing conglomerate, swallowing up imprints such as Heinemann, Secker and Warburg and Methuen. In 1987 he sold Octopus Books to the Anglo-Dutch publishing giant Reed Elsevier, continuing to run it as Reed International Books.

"Hamlyn took his share of the proceeds mostly in Reed shares, placing a quarter of his £200 million profit in the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. He enjoyed his wealth, buying a private jet and properties in New York, London and Provence, where he converted the ruined 14th century Chateau de Bagnols, near Lyon, into a moated country hotel.

"By this time, Hamlyn had become friends with many leading figures in the metropolitan liberal-left elite, including Sir Terence Conran (with whom he bought and developed the Michelin building in South Kensington) and Sir Claus Moser (whose National Commission on Education he funded to the tune of £1 million).

"It was through another friend, David (now Lord) Owen, that Hamlyn first became involved in politics. In the early 1980s, he was one of many previous Labour supporters who helped to finance the fledgling Social Democratic Party; but his affections were soon back with Labour, and in 1990 he gave £100,000 to develop the party's policy for the arts and cultural issues, the first of many donations, though he never became a party member.

"During the 1980s, when Heinemann was planning the publication of Spycatcher, the autobiography of Peter Wright which Margaret Thatcher tried to ban, his cocksure attitude was thought to have deprived him of recognition in the Honours List until 1993, when he was appointed CBE. .."[1]

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  1. telegraph.co.uk Lord Hamlyn, organizational web page, accessed March 29, 2012.