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Selim 'Eddy' Shah

Areas of Interest

Business, Media, Literature

Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of the University, 2001


Born in 1944, Eddy Shah is a writer, businessman and founder of the Today newspaper. Educated at Gordonstoun in Scotland, followed by Haywards Heath Grammar School, he began his career in theatre and television before entering the newspaper business with the Manchester Evening News. He later set up in business for himself and over the next 16 years built a portfolio of 60 newspaper titles. During that period he introduced new technology through desktop publishing to the newspaper and magazine industries. He was the first business leader to use the new Labour Laws to confront the Trade Unions because of new technology and faced over 10,000 pickets a night for more than seven months. The outcome was to have an enormous impact both on the newspaper industry and on the future of the Unions. In 1986 he launched the Today newspaper, and his use of new production technologies would revolutionise the industry.

He sold his newspaper holdings in 1988 and moved to the US to start a construction company. On his return to the UK he continued in construction, employing sustainable technologies to build environmentally-friendly homes in the South of England. He, with his wife Jennifer, after building up a chain of golf clubs and hotels as well as sharing in the ownership of Wentworth Golf Club, now own and run the Wiltshire Golf Country Club and Hotel. He has published several novels including Ring of Red Roses (1992) and Fallen Angels (1994). His new book, Second World is published by Pan MacMillan and was released in November 2008.

In 2001 Eddy Shah was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of the University.


"The Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University has great pleasure in recommending the award of an Honorary Doctorate of The University to Mr Selim E Shah, famous throughout the land and beyond, as Eddy Shah, founder of Today newspaper and hero of the battle against the "closed shop" of employment and the closed minds which resisted new technology in the newspaper industry.

Eddy Shah was born in Cambridge of parents with a rich cultural background: an English mother, but with Spanish and Irish blood, came from a local family of boat builders and his father of Persian origin, but brought up in India, was studying law at Cambridge University and went on to become a successful barrister in London, majoring in international shipping law and diplomacy. For reasons of misbehaviour, the young Eddy was suspended from most of the schools to which he was sent, ranging from Gordonstoun to both the Grammar and Secondary Modern Schools at Haywards Heath in Sussex. Eventually, he stayed long enough at a Brighton crammer, where he obtained seven GCE 'O' Levels to equip him for the world of work. His first career was in the theatre, in Repertory and the West End, from where he moved into television. Here, he worked on the production teams of several successful series on both BBC and commercial (Granada) channels, like Till Death Us Do Part and Coronation Street, as well as a variety of plays and films (including being Studio and Location Manager for the young Mike Apted - Gorilla in the Mist, Enigma and James Bond - and Mike Newell - Four Weddings and a Funeral). However, he then decided against working in television and took a first, and what was to prove significant, step into the newspaper industry when he joined a new newspaper started by the Manchester Evening News. However, only six months later he was made redundant (this was during the era of the three-day week). He responded to this by selling his house to start his own newspaper and vowed never to work for anyone else ever again!

Following on his marriage to Jennifer, came the arrival of their first son, Martyn. The next sixteen years saw not only the birth of a daughter (Tamsyn) and a second son (Alex) but the development of a significant newspaper group of sixty titles throughout the North West of England. Also, he launched his own national newspaper, the now famous, Today, using efficient, modern computer technology rather than the traditional, centuries-old, labour-intensive and tiresome hot-lead technology. His staff led many of the technological, distribution and editorial changes that transformed both the national and local newspaper environments. Indeed, many of the editors, executives and heads of sales and production on the current British newspaper scene, have their origins in Shah newspapers.

During this period, Eddy Shah and his supportive staff were in confrontation with the trade unions (especially the NGA and SOGAT) against the, what he believed was iniquitous, "closed shop" in employment in the newspaper industry, whereby these unions insisted that all employees become members, or lose their jobs. Eddy Shah and his employees refused to accept this condition of employment and entered into the first industrial dispute of the Thatcher Years, which was followed within a year by the anti-government national strike of miners, led by the colourful Arthur Scargill. His antipathy to the trade unions had been heightened when his wife suffering with cancer was turned away from hospital by a picket line of hospital porters in 1979 and with a recurrence of the illness, was turned away yet again, because of a strike of ambulance drivers, in 1982, when she was given only three months to live. He believed that trade unions had become narrowly self-focussed in their aims, and operated without due regard to the potential costs to their neighbours or fellow countrymen.

In 1988, Eddy Shah sold his newspaper empire to Reed International, he said because "I'd gone as far as I could. I didn't want just to go on making money. I needed a challenge." This challenge has been realized through his writing four "best seller" political thrillers, building a successful golf, leisure and hotel business with his wife and two of his children, starting a building company in America, becoming a Tory Party Treasurer and writing a trilogy set in the future which is currently in progress. Meanwhile, he continues to pursue his life-long golf habit. All this has been wonderfully contrary to his wife's depressing expectations when they married!

Eddy Shah appears to succeed in whatever he turns his hand to, he is a battler, yet he remains humble and modest, even as he confronts societal pressure which would crush any other man. Also, he is among the very few who has declined an entry in Who's Who and one can only speculate on the significance of a by-line in The Times Diary page several years ago, which read: "Shah turns down knighthood... and turned down invitation to appear on Question Time because he felt he had nothing to say." He is the ultimate anti-hero.

It is for these reasons, therefore, that I invite you, Vice-Chancellor, to confer on Selim E Shah, better known as Eddy Shah, an Honorary Doctorate of the University."