Tributes paid to former William Collins c.e.o. Ian Chapman

Tributes paid to former William Collins c.e.o. Ian Chapman

The "extraordinarily talented" former Collins chairman and c.e.o. Ian Chapman has died, aged 94.

Curtis Brown president Jonathan Lloyd has shared a tribute with The Bookseller, describing how Chapman - father of the S&S UK c.e.o. of the same name - shaped his career in publishing. Many others echoed Lloyd's tributes including HarperCollins UK c.e.o. Charlie Redmayne, chairman and co-founder of The Soho Agency Mark Lucas and author Francis Bennett.

A representative for Chapman's family confirmed that Chapman died on Thursday (7th November) at 6.30am, days after celebrating his 94th birthday, near London.

Redmayne told The Bookseller: "It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of Ian Chapman. Ian was much admired and was a key figure in the history of this company, having joined in the 1940s as a teenager, working first in Glasgow before moving to London in 1955 and eventually becoming c.e.o. and Chairman of William Collins. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this time."

Lloyd spoke of Chapman as a mentor. "He was a chairman of Collins when they were at the top of the league and was a truly exceptional publisher and leader, and so many people - myself included - owe their careers to him," he told The Bookseller. "That is unusual enough but what is unique about him apart from anything else is that he worked for Collins all his life and started at the bottom in the Bible department in Glasgow. He stood out obviously. During that time he discovered Alistair MacLean and his first novel HMS Ulysses a bestseller at the time, and was also McClain's agent. So it was pretty right from the start he was destined for a fast-track to the top which is what happened."

"He was an extraordinarily talented man. It was very fortunate that he chose publishing as a career because he was one of those rare examples of someone who could have been Prime Minister. He could have been chief executive of almost any kind of company so the fact he chose publishing is to all our benefits"

The publisher was extremely charismatic, Lloyd said, and won over employees and writers alike. "One has to remark about his presence - you felt it immediately as he walked in the room, he was handsome and always immaculately dressed and a real charmer - and the staff and authors all loved and admired him." 

However Lloyd believes Chapman was capable of making difficult decisions when necessary. "He was not afraid to take tough decisions as one has to do at the top of the business... He joins a very small club in the pantheon of 20th Century Great Men in Publishing. He was a major influence in my life and so many other people's."

Lloyd met him at the start of his career, when he started at Collins as a management trainee.

"I met him at Collins initially when he was my ultimate boss (and went on to become my direct boss), working with him for over 20 years."

Chapman was born in 1925 in Scotland and initially joined William Collins following RAF service in the Second World War. He rose through the ranks to become  m.d. in 1967, deputy chairman in 1976, and chairman and c.e.o. in 1981, and was in post when Rupert Murdoch (founder and chairman of News UK, of which HarperCollins is now a subsidiary) bought 41.7% of Collins. Chapman resigned in 1989, setting up Chapman Publishers with his wife Marjory, later to be bought by Orion.

Chapman and Lloyd maintained contact over many years. "I kept in touch with him through his son, Ian," Lloyd said. It's always true that - like when you attend someone's memorial service - you think 'I wish I'd seen more of him'. I thought of him often. The best parts of being a leader, whenever i was running a company, I often thought back to when he had inspired me in similar situations."

Lloyd added: "He led a very full life, there is no question. He was one of the greats and I was very fortunate that i spent the time that i did with him... I am proud to have known him."

Mark Lucas, chairman and co-founder of The Soho Agency, paid tribute to Chapman and also praised Chapman's wife Marjory for being an "inspiring guide".   

Lucas said: "The legendary Marjory Chapman was one of my most inspiring guides during a three year paperback publishing apprenticeship at Futura in the late ’seventies. My youthful enthusiasm for all things Alistair Maclean had played a major part in making me think this might be the perfect world in which to delay growing up, so to find myself under the tutelage of one half of the team who had already taken charge of my fantasy life was, as they say on Strictly, a dream come true. I was also granted privileged access to the other half. 

"Ian Chapman Sr occupied an impossibly grand space in the international publishing firmament, and seemed to have done so since the dawn of time. But, like his lady wife, he was always prepared to give this novice his full attention, to be infinitely generous with his wisdom, and was kind enough not to glance over my shoulder in case someone more important (which meant pretty much anybody, even complete strangers) might hove into view. I did occasionally glimpse the forbidding expression that would cross his face at moments of displeasure, and felt myself fortunate never to have been the focus of its full glare, but I will always remember his open-hearted smile, and Marjory’s very flattering attempts to persuade me not to move to the Dark Side. I hope she’s forgiven me..." 

Author Francis Bennett told The Bookseller: "On a cold February afternoon in 1967 I stood nervously in Ian Chapman's room at Collins when he asked me if I'd like to come and work for them. So began my publishing career and an enduring friendship with a remarkable man. Working for him was a daily lesson in how to be a publisher. This is a very sad day when we say goodbye to a most distinguished publisher and a truly good man."