Ed Victor dies

Ed Victor dies

Renowned literary agent Ed Victor has died aged 78, his agency has confirmed.

In a statement, the agency said: "It is with the deepest sadness that we announce the death of Ed Victor CBE, Chairman and founder of the Ed Victor Literary Agency. He died of a heart attack late in the evening on 7th June at the London Clinic after a long battle with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)."

The agency added: "Ed was a one-off: the toughest yet most professional of agents, who would always get the very best deal for his clients. An inveterate party-goer, he often attended three events in an evening. He will be a huge loss to the publishing industry and the wider world, and we miss him dearly. "

Victor, who celebrated 40 years as an agent at a star-filled party held at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hyde Park in November, had a high-profile client list that included former prime minister David Cameron, Andrew Marr, Nigella Lawson and Sophie Dahl, among many others. He represented both fiction and non-fiction, and many iconic literary estates.

Cameron said he was a “wonderful, warm and fun person”.

“He was an absolute titan of the publishing world and his love of books flowed through everything he did. He was at the top of his profession for decades and I was lucky to see at first hand that he was as enthusiastic about what he was doing just a few weeks ago as he was 20 years ago", the former PM said. "He will be deeply missed.”

Steve Rubin, Andrew Marr, Ed Victor and Nigella Lawson

Jonathan Lloyd, Curtis Brown chairman, who represented Ed Victor’s own book The Obvious Diet, told The Bookseller: "It's hardly possible to believe the news. He was a giant, the biggest and best agent ever. There will never be another Ed Victor. He was the most uber of uber agents. I shall miss him terribly as a friend, as a client, and as a lunch companion. The lights will be dimmer at every publishing event without his towering presence."

Penguin Random House chair Gail Rebuck commented: "Ed Victor was a super-agent, spanning the world with his deals for an illustrious group of writers. But, for so many of us, he was primarily a great friend, guiding our lives with his insight and intelligence. Ed had a lust for life, for great food, wine and conversation. He adored parties and would often cram in several of an evening, his energy never flagging. He was a towering figure in the publishing world, relentless in his optimism, ferociously hard-working, a brilliant and astute businessman and deal maker, an extremely well-read teller of stories and a major cultural figure, relentless in his optimism and curiosity. I was lucky enough to be part of Ed's life in the US and the UK. He and his wife Carol were wonderful neighbours, friends and confidants. It is impossible to imagine the world without him and his spirit and achievements will live on for many generations."

Hachette UK c.e.o. Tim Hely Hutchinson said: "Ed was the very definition of a literary agent: his list of clients is peerless, his connections inside the industry and in the wider world unmatched. He could – and almost always did - turn a good book into a great book. He was energetic and ambitious, always in pursuit of the best on behalf of his clients, but always fair and loyal. He was warm and friendly to everyone he met from the most powerful to the most junior. His flair, his style, his savoir faire and above all his great publishing instincts meant that not only physically but metaphorically he towered over the industry he loved for more than 40 years. He was a giant among agents."

Sophie Hicks, who agented with Ed Victor for many years before leaving to run her own agency, said: “In my 25 years working with Ed, there were innumerable times when Ed would stop what he was doing and look up from his desk, or interrupt our lunch or suddenly pause during a walk through Bedford Square or Frankfurt or New York and with his Ed grin, say: ‘We are having so much fun, aren’t we?’ And we were. We really did. Ed loved being an agent and loved life even more. My thoughts are with (his family) Carol, Adam, Ivan and Ryan."

Canongate c.e.o. Jamie Byng said: "Ed Victor was a dear friend, great mentor, and brilliant agent and deal maker who was as passionate about books and our industry as he was about the many remarkable people he represented over his long and illustrious career. His humour, wisdom and kindness are just three of his many qualities I will miss. We have lost one of the most charismatic and energetic figures in the world of books and I can't quite believe he has gone."

Simon & Schuster chief executive and c.e.o. Ian Chapman said: "‘Ed was, first and foremost, a wonderful friend.  He was also, of course, a wonderful agent, one of a kind: enthusiasm, passion, impatient focus on the deal, yet a fierce loyalty to his authors and their work. For Ed, anything was possible. I loved him for that and so much else." Suzanne Baboneau, m.d of Simon & Schuster’s adult publishing division, said: "It is devastating news. A brilliant man. He brought such clarity to the complexities of our business, stood proud and tall and never looked down on anyone. Say the name ‘Ed’ and everyone in publishing knew who you meant. Our hearts go out to Ed’s family, his close friends and the wonderful people at Ed Victor Ltd.”

Jeremy Trevathan, publisher for Macmillan adult books, said: "This is awful news. I understood that Ed was on the mend, so this is very sad. Ed was one of the giant personalities of late 20th century publishing when a raft a new agents (Carole Blake among them) who sprang up and revolutionised the world of literary agenting in the UK. They made life harder for us publishers, but they changed the lives of their authors too. He was a tough negotiator but he was also a genuine enthusiast for the industry. He loved publishing so much, evidenced by the fact that he still came to Frankfurt every year, even when many other agents and publishers had stopped. It feels like another generational turning point for UK and American publishing."

HarperCollins c.e.o. Charlie Redmayne told The Bookseller: “I met Ed in 2008 when I first joined HarperCollins. I did a presentation to agents on digital change. He invited me to breakfast - I think he thought I was clever which shows he didn’t get everything right! I was supposed to go for breakfast to tell him about digital change and instead I learned about the publishing industry. We kept in touch and became friends.

He added: "Ed was one of the good guys. He was a brilliant agent. He was highly intelligent and cared about his authors. He loved the finer things in life like restaurants and wine and Arsenal. He was a class act."

Gordon Wise, president of the Association of Author's Agents, and also of agency Curtis Brown, said: "Ed was a legend and a deeply respected member of the Association of Author’s Agents. When I left my last in-house publishing job, he called me from the side of his pool in the Hamptons to say, ‘Whatever you do, don’t become an agent. We still need good people at publishing houses.’ So when I joined Curtis Brown a few months later, I had to call him and ask for forgiveness. Thankfully, it came. He was an inspiration to any agent who aspired to his dynamic and proactive approach, not to mention appreciation of the finer things in life, and my thoughts are with all those who worked closely with him over the years."

Meanwhile agent Lizzy Kremer, who worked with Ed Victor for seven years before joining David Higham Associates, said: "I was so lucky to have found a mentor in Ed. He was an inspiring and generous man who excelled at what he did and showed me that it is okay to care too much, it is a thrill to never stop working when your job is as good as this one, it is powerful when we express our personalities in our work, it is our good fortune to represent authors, that these feelings are joyful and the only proper responses to our work as agents."

Clare Alexander of Aitken Alexander added her tribute, saying: "There are many things that can be said about Ed.  He had the best address book in publishing. He was a natty dresser. He was a legendary figure. But the most important thing to say about Ed is that he was a brilliant agent and a loyal friend. All of his clients will be feeling bereft, and publishing is very much the poorer for his loss. And speaking personally, I will miss him dreadfully."

Jonny Geller, joint m.d. of Curtis Brown, commented: "When I started in agenting there was only one agent everyone had heard of – Ed Victor. His name said it all. When I met him, I understood instantly why he was the best and most famous. It wasn’t simply his charm, finesse, anecdotes that tripped off the tongue, but that he made you feel anything was possible. That is what an agent must do and he embodied this. Publishing parties will never be the same without his tall, elegant, pin-striped presence."

Agent Simon Trewin, partner at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, told The Bookseller: "Ed was a true giant among agents and he managed to effortlessly combine his social life with his professional life with charm, eloquence and a straightforwardness that many envied. He was also a role model for many people in publishing and was always looking out for rising stars and helping them find their next step up the ladder. That is an admirable characteristic in anyone in our business but especially from someone at the top of their game who could have locked-off what he was doing and gone into cruise control. – but happily for everyone Ed Victor didn’t do cruise control – he was always in the fast lane."

Iain Dale, founder of Biteback Publishing, called Victor a "giant of the publishing industry". “He always had a twinkle in his eye and was a pleasure to deal with," Dale said. "Unlike many literary agents he understood the fundamental changes the industry has gone through and adapted his agency to those changes in a way that many of his fellow agents still haven’t. He really was the ultimate wise old owl.”

From Profile Books, m.d. Andrew Franklin commented: "Ed Victor was a great agent, with a real zest for the role.  He was a legend in both his own lunchtime and lifetime – and relished that too. There was no other agent like him, and probably never will be again."

Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page said: "This is such sad news. There was no agent quite like Ed. He was a legend, full of charm and ambition that served his clients extremely well. He was always very direct and clear to deal with. I remember a typical exchange when we turned down a book after a confidential reading. He replied, 'Thanks. You gave me the second best answer. A quick no.' He will be greatly missed."

Juliet Mabey, Oneworld publisher, said: "Ed Victor was tremendously supportive of Oneworld, despite our small size, and we knew him as an agent who upheld the highest professional standards. A man to respect, and one we will miss."

From the US, William Clark, agent and founder of New York-based William Clark Associates, said: "Ed and I started working together after I left William Morris in 1997. While we shared many clients, we never had a written agreement between us. He was kind and generous and full of life, and always in my corner. In the lineage of literary agents, he was a master.” He added: “Consider who came out of Ed Victor Ltd - Sophie Hicks, Grainne Fox, Sarah Williams, Lizzie Kremer, Sue Fletcher, etc. That's a significant legacy, too."

Authors have also been paying tribute to Victor. Writer Gyles Brandreth, one of Victor’s clients, told The Bookseller: "Ed Victor was the literary agent of our time. He had style, humour, charm and an unparalleled understanding of the publishing industry. He was a wonderfully tough negotiator who relished his work and looked after his clients with the zeal of a tigress guarding her cubs.

"As an agent, he changed my life - he raised my game considerably, made me think internationally, transformed my income. But more than that he was a great friend and a resolute ally. He was also the best company, full of stories from the literary world on both sides of the Atlantic. He loved his work and he loved life. It’s a cliché, but truly we won’t see his like again.

"He was tall and had considerable presence. He liked to make an impact and he did. But he wasn’t just the great deal-maker, he was also someone who loved writers and good writing, who loved books and good publishing. He was full of energy and ideas and lived through the most incredible changes within the publishing industry, helping to shape some of them and adapting nimbly to others.

"When I last spoke to him when he was in hospital a few weeks ago, I told him he wasn’t just the best, he was the best of the best. He liked that. And he was. "

Alastair Campbell said: "He was a giant in the literary world, and a giant of a man. He loved books because he loved stories. He loved stories because he loved people and he loved life. There are people who give energy, and there are people who drain energy. Ed was an energizer."

Thriller writer Freddie Forsyth said he was badly shaken by the news: "He was a terrific agent but much more; he was a dear and close friend."

Meanwhile on Twitter, author Kathy Lette said: “Dearest Ed Victor has died. He was the Ed-ocet missile of agents. His wily wit & warmth will be dearly missed by all his devoted authors.” Ken Follett called him a “life-enhancing friend”.

Ed Victor with Charlie Redmayne

Victor looked back over his publishing career in an interview with The Bookseller in November. He said he always had three criteria for taking on an author: personality, the quality of the book and its money-making potential.

“If there is a person I really like and want to be close to, whose work is OK but doesn’t make very much money, I’ll do it,” he said at the time. “If there is another, one who isn’t a very nice person but who has written an extraordinary book, [even if ] it won’t make a lot of money I’ll do it, because I love books. If you find something great, you want to disseminate it and bring it to the world. And if there is a book by someone who [he laughs] is not wonderful, and the book is not particularly good, but it is going to make a lot of money, I owe it to my company to do it. I have to feed its hungry maw.”

At a party to celebrate 40 years in the business last autumn, the agent said: “Forty years is both long and short: long because of the many wonderful people like you who have enhanced my life; short because time flies when you're having fun. I will never ever retire.”

He negotiated the high-profile signing of former prime minister David Cameron's memoir to William Collins just a few weeks before that event. 

Born in the Bronx in 1939, and a graduate of Dartmouth College, Victor came to Britain in 1961 for his M Litt at New College, Cambridge. He first worked as a publisher in London at Weidenfeld & Nicolson and at Jonathan Cape, and also at Alfred A Knopf in New York, before starting his own agency in 1976.

In 2016, he was awarded a CBE in the 2016 New Years honours list for services to literature.