12 FEBRUARY 1972, Page 15


People who know how easy it is to ruin a new publishing venture with bad books and parlous management will be pleasantly surprised to hear that Tom Stacey Ltd is now making a profit. Not over the last financial year or anything extravagant like that, but a small demonstrable profit since October 1971. "The future," we are now told, "is absolutely and entirely secure "; and the company "perfectly viable without any outside sources investing further in it." The working capital has been built up to something in excess of £100,000 and the turnover, now in the region of £1 million, is intended to quadruple.

All this will be particularly good news to Lord St Oswald, and may even go some way towards solving his crisis of identity. Lord St Oswald was an original investor in Tom Stacey Ltd (he still has £23,000 in the company) and did a number of helpful things in the early days, like lending Tom Stacey the furniture to stock the boardroom. As a result of this he felt, perhaps unjustly, that he ought to be running the firm, and demanded to have the title of "Chief Executive." The board, pointing out that he was not even a major shareholder (he holds a quarter of the shares) placated him with "Executive Chairman."

At this, and perhaps also at the suggestion of his financial advisers, Lord St Oswald arranged lunches, dinners, and for all we know, shoots, with a great many important people, including the late Harold Macmillan, to tell them that Tom Stacey' Ltd was in a state of collapse . . . that he had poured all this money into it and look what had happened . . . and what should he do about it? The culmination of these activities occurred just before Christmas last year. Lord St Oswald resigned as Chairman and sent a lorry around to the Maiden Lane offices of Tom Stacey Ltd. Numbers of men jumped out and went up to the boardroom. They stripped it of carpets, curtains, pictures, heaters, decanters and a large stove. They then left, not forgetting to wrench the locks out of the doors. Lord St Oswald was recovering all that was tangible of his investment.

It is interesting that this firm is the only sizeable publishing venture to have sprung from a chance remark — Peregrine Worsthorne's to Tom Stacey, claiming that you might not get many people who can vote Enoch Powell but you will get thousands who will read Enoch Powell. Is this still the line? Well, no. Apparently the firm has now altered its political outlook "to reflect the climate of Conservative opinion as a whole." If this distinguishes Tom Stacey Ltd from most other London publishers my name is not