Publisher and Businessman

born January 11th 1950

died February February 4th 2019

Liam Kane who has died aged 69 after a short illness had an outstanding newspaper and business career spanning five decades in Glasgow and and London.

It was perhaps fitting that the first tribute to him was posted by a non profit charity organisation dedicated to building partnerships between business and communities in the poorer parts of east London.

Amy Downes of the East London Business Alliance (ELBA) wrote: “Liam joined in 2001 and found a small organisation with an earnest desire to do good. He picked it up and in 14 years turned it into an impactful and dynamic organisation. Liam was particularly committed to helping the young people of east London, recognising their talent and untapped potential, fighting to make sure they got a fair go at the jobs and careers they deserve”.

It is an epitaph that would have made Liam Kane proud. In a career spanning half a century across Scotland and London the job that gave him the greatest sense of fulfilment and achievement was his last. To family and friends he said: “This is a wonderful job providing an opportunity to improve lives, to use my experience and knowledge to put something back in”.

Liam James Kane was born in 1950 in Kinning Park the oldest of a family of five children. The family later moved to Castlemilk from where he attended Holyrood Secondary School.

Kane trained as management accountant with the Weir Group in Cathcart graduating as a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants before joining the Daily Record and Sunday Mail in 1970 as Chief Accountant. His appointment as finance director in 1978 made him the company’s youngest ever director and a year later he was made deputy managing director. In 1984 he left and after a brief period with the Edinburgh based Grant Forrest Agency joined News International in Glasgow where he played a leading role in the launch of the Scottish edition of The Sun. Following the success of the launch Kane moved to London where he worked for Sky Television and also the Today newspaper.

In 1991 he was headhunted for the post of sales and marketing director at George Outram’s, publishers of the The Herald and Evening Times, and a subsidiary of the conglomerate Lonrho. Within a year he was managing director, an appointment that proved significant as Lonrho began to look at selling off some assets. What followed was perhaps Kane’s greatest achievement in both newspaper and business terms.

To head off potential buyers for Outrams Kane set up a small management buy out team within the two newspapers and within months had raised investment from across the financial sectors in both London and Scotland. The management buyout of Outrams by Caledonian Newspapers in June 1992 brought the titles back under Scottish control, a major objective of the buyout strategy. The second objective to take Caledonian Newspaper to market was not achieved and in 1996 it was purchased by Scottish Television.

Kane left Caledonian but in typical Kane style soon bounced back as managing director of the Daily Record and Sunday Mail. When he resigned this post in 1998 citing differences in “operational matters” it barely covered the major disagreement with the Record and Mail’s owners, Mirror Group in London. They rejected Kane’s insistence that the Scottish papers should have fully devolved management, control and decision making in Glasgow.

Three months later Kane’s exceptional and unquestionably rollercoaster of a career took an unexpected turn when he accepted the post of managing director of the New Millenium Experience Company which was building the controversial Millenium Dome. After the turn of the millenium Kane worked briefly with the marketing company Betterware before taking up the challenge to turn round the fortunes of ELBA.

Alan Ferguson, the Scottish public relations guru and one of Kane’s closest friends described him as “energised, the man just led in every aspect of his life, he was a leader”.

The leadership role he embraced was rarely confined to fellow directors or senior managers. In his newspapers days he would regularly visit every department and was on first name terms with a wide cross-section of the workforce from sales, editorial, HR to the old printing departments and machine room. Sometimes these walkabouts preceded Old Firm games when he would display his Celtic loyalities and accept bets with Rangers fans. The day after the game the steps would be re-traced gleefully collecting or ruefully dispensing wagers.

Liam Kane was married three times. His first marriage with Ann Marie produced four children, Paul, Lynsey, Jonathan, and Laura. His second marriage to Gill one daughter, Clare and with his third marriage to Sally, two stepchildren, Matthew and Morwenna.

On St Andrews Day, November 30 2016 Liam Kane joined by his proud extended family attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace where he was awarded an MBE by Prince William. Not for services to the newspaper industry in Scotland or the Millenium Dome in London, but for “services to regeneration in east London”.

As with the epitaph from ELBA Liam would have settled for that.

His funeral will be held at St John of Jerusalem Hackney, London on Friday February 15th, at 12 noon.

George McKechnie