'Inspiring' former Canongate chairman Christopher Bland dies

'Inspiring' former Canongate chairman Christopher Bland dies

Former Canongate chairman Christopher Bland has died aged 78.

Bland died peacefully on Sunday (28th January) following a battle with cancer.  He was chairman of Canongate for 22 years.

The publisher's c.e.o. Jamie Byng told The Bookseller that Bland was "smart, dedicated, tough and inspiring" and without him Canongate would not be "what it is today".

“Vastly experienced, passionate about books and their importance, and alive to the challenges of running an independent publisher, Christopher was an exemplary chairman," Byng said. "He was enormously proud of Canongate, loved and admired its excellent staff and many wonderful authors, and without him Canongate would not be what it is today. In fact I don’t think it would be. Period. Christopher is also the man I have learnt more from than anyone else and his death is a huge personal loss.  It’s hard to believe he is gone.” 

Bland was born in Japan on the 29th May 1938 and grew up in Northern Ireland. He attended Oxford University where he became captain of the university fencing team and fenced for Ireland at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Bland's career has seen him at the helm of some of the UK’s most reputable businesses, including the Independent Television Authority which he became deputy chairman of in 1972 and the London Weekend Television, of which he later became chairman.

Bland was also the chairman of the BBC board of governors between 1996 and 2001, and following that, he became the chairman of BT for six years. He was also chairman of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) between 2004 and 2011.

Last October, Bland stepped down from his role as chairman of Canongate after 22 years, and was replaced by former Orion boss David Young.

Bland had his début novel, Ashes in the Wind, published by Head of Zeus in 2014. According to the Guardian, when asked if he had any advice for his teenage self, Bland said he would have told him to become a writer, not a businessman. “Forget all that other stuff," he said. "I took the long way round but I have started the creative life at the age of 76 so it’s never too late.”

Bland’s son, Archie, told the BBC: "He was as sweet and gentle and wise as he was tough and bold and brave."

BBC director general Tony Hall added: "Sir Christopher Bland was an outstanding chairman of the BBC. He was a great communicator who both understood the creativity of broadcasting as well as the business of it. He was hugely admired and will be greatly missed."

Bland is survived by his wife Lady Jennifer, his son Archie, and his four step-children, of whom Jamie Byng is one.