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Roger Tagholm


Tim Waterstone, the founder of the eponymous book chain Waterstones – one of the most famous bookselling companies in the world and certainly the only bookselling chain whose founder is still alive – has been knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in the UK for “services to bookselling and charity”.

He said: “I’m feeling absolutely great about it.  At the age of 79, it’s lovely to have a pat on the head like that.  It’s all about Waterstones, it was a big thing in my life and it’s lovely.”

Waterstone transformed bookselling in the UK.  He opened his first store in 1982 with £6000 of redundancy money from WHSmith for whom he had been running an abortive project in the US.  For the next 15 years Waterstones conducted a battle with rival chain Dillons, with both companies opening stores right across the UK in a golden period of expansion for physical bookstores.  Every major town or city in the UK had a Waterstones or Dillons, sometimes both.

Although he had been fired by WHSmith some years previously, the company bought Waterstones in 1993 – and then, a few years later, Waterstone, along with EMI and Advent Capital, bought it back, and acquired Dillons in the process too.  Waterstone left the company but nearly ten years later, in 2006, tried to buy it back again.  He failed, and then in 2011 the chain was sold to Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut.  Earlier this year, Mamut sold Waterstones to the hedge fund Elliott Advisors.

It has been quite a journey.  Along the way Waterstone has written three novels and his memoirs are currently being sold by Curtis Brown.

The Queen’s Birthday Honours were started in 1860 by Queen Victoria and are given to people who have achieved something, given to public life or served their country.  This year’s Birthday Honours also saw novelist Kazuo Ishiguro knighted for “services to literature”, and CBE’s (‘Companion of the British Empire’) for novelists Janette Winterson and Ken Follett.  Liz Calder, co-founder of Bloomsbury – the house that publishes both Harry Potter and the memoirs of His Highness, Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamad al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah – also receives a CBE for “services to literature”.