English publishing entrepreneur and founder of the Hamlyn and Octopus houses. Hamlyn famously published intelligence officer Peter Wright's autobiography Spycatcher, which the Conservative government of the day tried to ban. He was later revealed as a major contributor to Labour Party funds. The Sunday Times Rich List estimated his net worth at £300 million in 2000. He was made a life peer in 1998.
Hamlyn established his first publishing business from a barrow in Camden market, London, with an inheritance of £350 from his grandfather. He founded Books for Pleasure (1949), Prints for Pleasure (1960), and Records for Pleasure (1961) under the name Hamlyn, which he sold in 1964 to IPC (becoming chair of IPC books from 1965 to 1970) for £2.25 million. After a short tenure as joint managing editor of Richard Murdoch's News International, Hamlyn launched Octopus books in 1971, which he sold to Reed International for £532 million in 1987. He holds a £269 million stake in Reed, a 10% stake worth £5 million in Michelin House Investments, and owns the Bibendum restaurant with friend Terence Conran.
Hamlyn was born in Berlin, the second son of a paediatrician who fled with his family to London in 1933. He was educated at Letchworth boarding school in Hertfordshire and left aged 16 when his father died. After changing his name, he started his career as an office boy at Country Life magazine. During the war he was sent to the Welsh coalmines as a ‘Bevan boy’ – an alternative to serving in the armed forces – and worked part-time for the South Wales Argus newspaper.
Apart from donations to political causes, Hamlyn's charitable trust, set up in 1987, has given money to the arts and charities, including London's Royal Opera House and the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It has also pledged £17 million towards the South Bank Centre regeneration, part of which will be named after him.
Hamlyn, Paul Bertrand