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Publisher Ernest Hecht dies, aged 88

He came to England in 1939 on the Kindertransport and established Souvenir Press in 1951 in his parents’ flat

    Ernest Hecht receives his OBE from the Prince of Wales in 2015
    Ernest Hecht receives his OBE from the Prince of Wales in 2015 (Photo: PA)

    Ernest Hecht, founder and publisher of Souvenir Press, has died at the age of 88.

    Born in Czechoslovakia in 1929, Mr Hecht was sent to England in 1939 on the Kindertransport to escape the Nazi occupation.

    He established Souvenir Press in 1951 in the bedroom of his parents’ flat with the help of a £250 loan from his father.

    Dubbed “the Brian Clough of publishing” for his fast talking, mischievous nature and notoriously untidy office, Mr Hecht ran Souvenir Press for more than 60 years, publishing work from writers including PG Wodehouse, Jenny Joseph and even Che Guevara, as well as work from five Nobel Prize winners.

    Considered a risk-taker, he was quoted as saying: “You have the freedom, and I'd be inclined to say, the duty, to publish books of a minority interest and titles whose time may not yet have arrived or ideas that challenge received wisdom.”

    Mr Hecht received the first Lifetime Achievement award at the British Book Awards in 2001 and was awarded an OBE for services to publishing and charity in 2015.

    He was also founder of the Ernest Hecht Charitable Foundation, set up in 2003, which awards grants to charities that benefit the vulnerable and promote the advancement of the arts and education.

    A spokesperson for Souvenir Press said Mr Hecht was “much more than a publisher”, describing him as “wise and witty.”

    Liz Thomson, a book trade publicist, said: “Whatever the subject, Souvenir Press had published the first book on the subject.”

    Mr Hecht died in hospital on Tuesday after a short illness.

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