Industry mourns print stalwart Victor Watson

By Nick Mansley, Monday 02 March 2015

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Victor Watson CBE, a “titan” of the printing industry and celebrated Leeds businessman, has died aged 86.

victor-watson

VIctor Watson CBE: 1928 - 2015

Watson, who was responsible for much of the success of playing card and board game publisher Waddingtons, passed away on 25 February after a long struggle with Parkinson’s.

At the time of his death, Watson was president of Print Yorkshire and a highly respected member of the Yorkshire business community.

A former president of the BPIF, Watson was, in 2007, the first person to receive the BPIF President’s Award for Lifetime Contribution. He was also formerly president of the Institute of Packaging and the Royal Warrant Holders Association.

In 2013, the Printing Charity presented Watson, a former trustee and national president of the organisation, with a Pro Merito Award in recognition of all he had done for the industry.

He was appointed CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 1987.

“He was a titan of the industry and had a huge impact on print. In many ways we see this as the passing of an era,” said Printing Charity chief executive Stephen Gilbert.

Watson was born in 1928 and started his career as a print apprentice at John Waddington in 1951. He rose through the ranks and in 1977 was appointed chairman of the company, a position that he held until his retirement in 1993.

He helped to develop Waddingtons' famous Monopoly brand to the extent that he became known as ‘Mr Monopoly’.

Watson successfully defended Waddingtons from hostile takeover attempts by Robert Maxwell on two occasions.

“He defeated Maxwell through co-operation, and through his wisdom, humour and charm. He was the antithesis of Maxwell,” said Robert McClements, chief executive of CDI Print Yorkshire.

“Waddingtons was a patriarchal company in the old style and Victor was its figurehead. Waddingtons was the foundation of so much of the printing industry in the region.”

The company subsequently developed into Communisis, one of the UK’s biggest print employers.

Former Communisis group business development director Gurdev Singh, said: "He was an inspirational leader and a mentor to me. His philosophy was that you have to put back into industry. You have a responsibility to colleagues and employees."

Singh first joined Waddingtons in 1992 and stayed for 11 years. He then rejoined Communisis in 2009.

"He wasn't afraid of doing a deal, but he knew that Maxwell wouldn't be good for the company. He was protecting the business and, in the end, people's pensions," added Singh.

"A lot of the people he brought into Waddingtons went on to build Communisis."

Watson is described by all as having been a tireless contributor to large number of charities and business organisations and a passionate patron of the arts.

“Right up until the last few months he took an active interest in the industry. He never lost his love for print,” said Gilbert.

Watson is survived by his wife Sheila and two daughters. A memorial service is expected to be held in Leeds, the details of which will be announced at a later date.

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