In the news: Andrew Neil

October 5, 2001

St Andrews University had expanded its press office team to cope with the media interest in new student Prince William. But in this week's debacle over the intrusion by Prince Edward's Ardent television company, a key speaker has been the student-elected rector Andrew Neil. Mr Neil, aged 52, has more experience of the media than most, as a writer, editor, publisher and broadcaster.

He was educated at Paisley Grammar School and Glasgow University and worked briefly as a political adviser for the Conservative Party after graduating in politics and economics. But he then joined The Economist , reporting from Belfast, London, New York and Washington before becoming United Kingdom editor within nine years. At the age of 34, he became editor of the Sunday Times . Today's mammoth Sunday papers were pioneered by him: he expanded the Sunday Times from three to ten sections.

Other posts have included executive chairman of Sky Television and executive editor of Fox Television News. He is currently publisher-in-chief of the Barclay brothers' Press Holdings, running the Scotsman newspaper group.

Controversial and abrasive, with a reputation as a party animal, Mr Neil offends and amuses in almost equal measure. Hordes of listeners bombarded the BBC with complaints when the contract for his Sunday morning radio show was not renewed.

When St Andrews students elected him in 1999, defeating Scottish Socialist Party MSP and pin-up Tommy Sheridan, they may well have considered the value of a rector with media savvy and an ear for a soundbite. Mr Neil has proved a champion in the row over the Ardent film crew breaching an agreement to leave St Andrews after a photocall marking Prince William's arrival.

"For the agreement to be broken by a company owned by his own uncle - you just couldn't make it up. It sets a terrible example to the rest of the media," Mr Neil said.

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