David Yelland was the most unlikely editor of The Sun when he was appointed in 1998. But Rupert Murdoch’s choice of a business journalist, who became deputy editor of the New York Post, confounded critics.
It was not a job he had sought, but he believes he has achieved all he was asked to do in the past five years. As he leaves, The Sun’s sales have been boosted to more than 3.6m on the back of a price war with the Daily Mirror.
Despite his acrimonious war with Mirror editor Piers Morgan, Yelland was tempted to say something nice about him before he left, according to colleagues.
Tempted, but not quite enough. The animosity rankles and it’s no surprise that Yelland returned from holiday on Monday relieved to find he had been given the opportunity to do something else other than edit The Sun.
His six-month course at Harvard Business School, already completed by Sir Nicholas Lloyd when he was with News International in the Seventies, could lead to management appointments with News Corporation in the UK or the US.
Yelland and his family will relocate to the US in a few days, even though the course does not start until April.
He realises people will interpret the change as his ousting from the editor’s chair at The Sun but is said not to view it that way himself. Management is something he has always wanted to do – even before he became The Sun’s top man and, 40 in May, he wants a change.
Yelland was given this accolade from Martin Townsend, editor of the Sunday Express: “I think David did a great job at The Sun. He wasn’t flash and he didn’t stomp around like Piers Morgan, but he just steered the paper back on course after the MacKenzie/Higgins years. He has given Rebekah a fantastic base on which to build.”
Of Wade, Townsend said: “I’m sure it will be a much more flamboyant paper under her and maybe it’s time to do that again, but the Mirror has got to be very careful with her in opposition. She is a serious talent.”
Morgan, meanwhile, has called off his war on The Sun. “The armistice begins,” he said. “We’ve seen off two Sun editors in the last seven years, and frankly it seems churlish to continue hammering them as they attempt to rebuild their clearly rather troubled business. We will be concentrating on destroying each other professionally, but personally it will be a much more harmonious relationship.”