Lord Heseltine is handing magazine publisher Haymarket over to a younger generation that understands technology as he steps down after 65 years as chairman.
The Conservative peer, who turns 90 in March, co-founded Haymarket in 1957 and helped to develop it into one of Britain’s most influential magazine publishers.
He will be succeeded as chairman by his son Rupert, while he will stay on as a director.
Lord Heseltine told The Telegraph there was a responsibility to the younger generation to “make it clear who’s in charge”.
He said: “Haymarket is now at the front of technology in the media world, and I simply don’t know what it’s all about. You’ve got to be realistic.
“I don’t know what AI [artificial intelligence] is going to do to the media world, but someone needs to know if you are running a significant company like Haymarket.
“So it’s important to make sure that the people in charge in the driving seat are up to speed with the world that exists today, not the world I inhabited 60 years ago.”
The departure comes amid a wider management shake-up at the company, which owns business-to-business magazines including Campaign and PR Week, as well as consumer titles such as What Car?
Former government minister Sam Gyimah will join as an adviser to the board, while Sue Biggs, former director general of the Horticultural Society, has been tapped as a non-executive director.
Board members David Fraser, who joined Haymarket as finance director in 1968 and has been a non-executive director since 2005, and Lord Levene of Portsoken, a non-executive director since 1997, are both stepping down.
After beginning his career in property, Lord Heseltine moved into publishing in 1957, setting up Cornmarket Press with Clive Labovitch.
Cornmarket published the first hardback of the Directory of Opportunities for Graduates – which listed anonymous graduate CVs for employers – before acquiring the quarterly men’s style magazine Man About Town.
The name Haymarket was adopted as a portmanteau in 1964 following an investment from Man About Town publisher Hazell Watson & Viney.
Haymarket gradually built up its stable of brands through a series of acquisitions in both specialist business areas and consumer subjects such as sport and motoring.
More recently, the group has moved into exhibitions and ecommerce through the What Car? platform, as well as establishing its content marketing division Wonderly in 2019.
It now owns more than 70 titles and has 1,300 employees in the UK, US, Hong Kong, Singapore, India and Germany.
Lord Heseltine said the industry had evolved from the era when “journalists saw themselves as emperors and everyone else as grubby commercial people”, saying the media had got “more and more in touch with the market” even as print circulations declined.
He said there was “no doubt” that regulation on tech giants such as Facebook and Google would have to increase due to the “dangers and abuses and extremes out there”.
But he added: “If you start talking to me about algorithms and all that, you’ve rather lost me.”
Lord Heseltine is perhaps best known for his long political career, serving as a Conservative MP from 1966 until 2001.
He entered Cabinet in 1979 under Margaret Thatcher and became one of the most prominent “wets” opposing the Prime Minister’s hardline views about taking on the unions.
In 1986, Lord Heseltine, then defence secretary, resigned following the Westland Affair, when a row with Ms Thatcher exploded in public.
The Tory grandee later served as deputy prime minister under John Major and became a vocal critic of Brexit and Boris Johnson. In 2019, he had the Conservative whip suspended after saying he would vote for the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament election.
Lord Heseltine’s departure will mark the end of an era for Haymarket and comes as media companies grapple with a steady decline in their traditional advertising revenues amid a shift to online audiences.
Lord Heseltine said Haymarket would remain a family business, insisting it was “not a company designed to maximise its profits in the short term”.
However, he said the company needed to retain outside leadership as attempting to run the business within the family risked a “monumental bust-up about who’s in charge”.