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Tributes paid to William Davis

Posted on: February 11, 2019 by Charlie Bowden

The Society of Editors has paid tribute to one of the greats of the business journalism world, William Davis, who has died at the age of 85.

The former Evening Standard city editor and Guardian economics editor was a prolific financial journalist, broadcaster and editor who had grown up in war torn Germany before moving to the UK at the age of 16 and forging an impressive career. 

“He was one of the true giants of the business journalism scene and set the standard for what we take as essential City coverage today,” commented the Society’s executive editor, Ian Murray.

Davis enjoyed a successful career on Fleet Street that spanned several decades and included time as editor of Punch magazine from 1969 to 1977.

His big break came when he answered an ad in The Daily Telegraph for a job at the Stock Exchange Gazette, where, as well as making sandwiches, he began writing critical reports on companies. Shortly afterwards he moved to the City pages of the London Evening Standard. By 1958, still only 25 years of age, he had been promoted to City editor and had become a favourite of the paper’s owner, Lord Beaverbrook. “He never asked me where I came from, never asked about my education. But I was always the boy who said: ‘I’ll do it” he recalled.

By the mid-1960s he was financial editor of The Guardian, where he built a reputation for his intelligent diagnosis of economic issues. Davis went on to become one of the first presenters of the BBC’s World at One on Radio 4 and helped develop and present BBC Two’s The Money Programme.

He wrote 20 books, and founded the in-flight British Airways magazine High Life, where he also served as editor-in-chief. Davis’ daughter Jacki described her father as “pioneering and innovative”, and a “self-made man” with a weakness for champagne, according to the BBC.

In his later years Bill Davis and his French-born wife Sylvette, a photographer whom he married in 1968, settled in a beautiful villa in the hills behind Cannes, where he continued to turn out books, including a memoir. Davis is survived by his wife, Sylvette, and by two daughters from an earlier relationship, Sue and Jacki.

William Davis, born March 6 1933, died February 2 2019

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