'Inspirational' publisher Simon King dies, aged 80

'Inspirational' publisher Simon King dies, aged 80

"Inspirational" former publisher Simon King, formerly of William Collins and Random House, has died, aged 80.

King, who was born in November 1937, died last Thursday (1st March). He had a long and distinguished career at William Collins, where as publisher his team included Helen Fraser, Susan Watt, Carol O’Brien, Kate Parkin, Andy McKillop, Marjory Chapman, Ariane Bankes, Stuart Proffitt and Dan Franklin.

He began his career in Germany at the Catholic publishers Herder in 1958. After four years working as a literary agent for Peter Janson-Smith between 1960 and 1964, and then six years at Burns and Oates, he moved to Collins as an editor in 1970, and his early career was nurtured by Billy Collins. While at Collins (later renamed HarperCollins), King rose through the ranks from editor to publisher in a career there spanning 20 years. In 1991 he was hired by Gail Rebuck and Simon Master to take charge of Century, Arrow and Hutchinson at Random House. He retired in 1999.

Franklin, who worked with King at Collins, paid tribute to him as "an inspirational boss, whose gentle manner disguised a steely will – a necessary attribute in the later days of his Collins career when a new breed of manager arrived more interested in profit margins than literary excellence".

Proffitt of Penguin Press, who also worked under King at Collins, spoke of his enduring gratitude, praising King's kindness and the encouragement he gave to editors like himself when they were starting out.

"He was extraordinarily warm and kind person, knew where to draw the lines, believed in the power of books and writing, and was deeply encouraging to young editors like me," said Proffitt. 

"In later years we lived close to each other, and whenever I went round his table was covered in the books and journals he was reading. He wanted to talk about what was coming out, what the reactions had been, what I was editing. I was proud to be able to give him copies of books I had worked on and which I thought he would like, in continuing thanks for all he taught me."

Parkin, who worked with King both at HarperCollins and at Random House, said he inspired "fierce loyalty" from his colleagues with good reason. 

"He saw his role as enabling the teams he ran to publish to the best of their ability, believing – as he often said – that ‘profit is a consequence of good publishing’," she said. "A quiet man, he commanded fierce loyalty from those of us fortunate enough to have worked for him."

She added: "I, and many others in the industry, owe him a great deal."

King is survived by his wife Sarah, his son Jonathan and his daughters Jess and Jo, and seven grandchildren. 

His funeral will be held at 11 am on Friday 23rd March at St Ethelreda’s, Ely Place, London EC1N 6RY.