A journalist who went to the same school as Tony Blair before enjoying a “meteoric rise” in the profession has died at the age of 59.
Richard Gibbon, left, worked on newspapers in the North East and later at titles on the South Coast during a career that began in 1972 and resumed, after a spell in PR and restaurateuring, in 1999.
He was a pupil at Fettes College in Edinburgh at the same time as the former Prime Minister and started his journalistic career at the Evening Gazette in Middlesbrough.
He then moved to the Gazette’s sister papers in Newcastle where he became first deputy news editor of the Evening Chronicle and, then assistant editor of The Journal in 1983 – the same year Mr Blair became a North-East MP.
Richard was also motoring correspondent of the Newcastle-based Sunday Sun from 1976 to 1987 and oversaw the launch of the Journal Business Magazine of which he was editor for several years.
While there he broke the world exclusive of Nissan’s plans to build a car plant in the North-East of England.
Life-long friend Steve Hughes, motoring editor of the Chronicle, Journal and Gazette said: “Richard was one of a rare breed of truly larger-than-life characters who was always fun to be around, with an inexhaustible supply of interesting, amusing and invariably exaggerated anecdotes with which he would regale fellow journalists and industry executives on the many vehicle launches he attended around the world.
“He loved journalism and always carried a note book and pencil wherever he went, proudly displaying an enviable standard of shorthand prowess. His meteoric journalistic career was interrupted at a relatively early stage when, as an assistant editor of The Journal, he was lured into public relations with the hugely-profitable Nissan UK with what was reported to be the highest salary in the business at the time.
“Had he stayed in journalism he would have undoubtedly been an editor within a relatively short time and, possibly, one of the great journalistic personalities of his era.”
Richard left the North East to become head of press and public relations for Nissan UK at Worthing from 1987 to 1992 before opening a restaurant in Chichester, West Sussex with his wife Louise, which won an Egon Ronay recommendation.
He sold the business in 1999 and returned to journalism as motoring correspondent for Johnston Press titles in the South including the Portsmouth News, Crawley Observer, East Sussex Express, Mid Sussex County Times, West Sussex Gazette, Petersfield Post and Chichester Observer.
In recent years he suffered ill health and was cared for by his wife, who was well known in the North East as the former boss of the Newcastle-based Louise James model agency and a columnist for The Journal.
Richard died at his Chichester home last week. A funeral mass will be held at St George’s Church, Cleveland Road, Chichester, West Sussex on Monday 19 December at 10.30am.