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Obituary: Gillian O’Connor, investment writer and editor, 1941–2016

Associate editor Philip Ryland remembers the Investors Chronicle's 'most successful' editor

Gillian O’Connor, who died earlier this month, was not the best-known editor of Investors Chronicle.

That accolade would probably go to Harold Wincott, editor for 21 years to 1959, or to Sir Andreas Whittam Smith, who later founded The Independent. Arguably, however, Gillian was the most successful. In 1982 she took over a magazine that had been without clear direction for 10 years as it struggled to cope with assaults on the City and on private investment by the combined forces of Labour governments and rising inflation. Five years later the magazine’s weekly sales had almost trebled to 87,000, a figure still unbeaten.

True, Gillian got help from Thatcherism, privatisation and a rampant bull market. But she exploited these tail winds by fostering an editorial environment where good writing was encouraged and staff – once Gillian trusted them – were free to pursue their own ideas. Allied to sharp design, this made the IC a winner.

Against that, there was often a headwind – the IC’s shoestring budget that frequently prompted the question: what would the circulation have risen to had the magazine been funded as Gillian argued for?

Granted, she did not always help herself. Stories about Gillian’s run-ins with management were legendary. Part of the problem was that it was pointless having an argument with her. If your thinking was impeccable, the result might be a draw. Anything less would mean defeat as Gillian’s logic – stiletto-sharp, relentless and delivered with deadly-dry wit – hit home. Those further up the management food chain who lacked the skills could find the process humiliating. Not that humiliation was ever Gillian’s intention. The aim was always what would serve the IC’s best interests in the long run. The means would always be a plan driven by logic, simplicity and clarity.

Back in the early 1980s, that logic reshaped the IC to focus on stock picking and the needs of private investors. That today’s magazine so recognisably bears Gillian’s mark, 22 years after she left it, is the best tribute to her 12 years as editor.