Vere Rothermere's mission accomplished

In the street called Fleet, one blows no trumpet but one’s own. So only Mail on Sunday readers heard that fanfare celebrating its 20th birthday with a sale of 2,550,000.

Who, when it was born in the first week of May 1982, would have given it much chance of survival, never mind conquering the middle market?

It had been conceived by Vere Rothermere to wring the neck of the then golden goose of the Express group. He had inherited the duty to avenge his father’s pain at having his Sunday Dispatch gobbled up by Beaverbrook’s Sabbath colossus.

Though, fortunately, the man with the last word, Vere had to battle powerful internal opposition to the adventure.

Market research advised, "You’re going up the down escalator". Production despaired at recommissioning old presses, including some lying waterlogged in the basement.

Accountants said the budget wouldn’t run to a colour supplement, though most ad agencies warned that launching without one would drop the new baby naked into a fully armed world.

The launch promotion pitch was won by Saatchi & Saatchi, who came up with a video demonstrating that the public out there didn’t give a damn whether its Sunday paper had a colour supplement.

Vere was determined that his Sunday would not be a seventh-day Daily Mail. Rather than involve his editorial supremo, Sir David English, he appointed an editor from outside and briefed him to recruit a team from outside.

Even the launch date was to prove a problem. Vere had chosen the anniversary of great-uncle Northcliffe’s launch of the Daily Mail. He consulted astrologer Patric Walker, who neglected to foresee that May 1982 would be the middle of the Falklands war, with an anxious public relying on familiar newspapers. Nor could he pick up that the paper would have nobody in the front line to file such epic Sunday splashes as the heroism of Colonel H.

The feared production problems came to pass. News-stands that looked to have sold every copy of the newcomer turned out not to have been supplied. It was weeks before things could be put right.

After 10 issues, Sir David abseiled to the rescue. Budgets and staff were dramatically increased. The missing colour magazine was added.

The splash of that traumatic first issue was "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED". It is now.

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