The former BBC broadcaster and Guardian journalist William Davis has died aged 85.
Born in Hanover, Germany as Gunther Kiess in 1933, Davis changed his name when he moved to the UK at the age of 16 and became a British citizen.
Davis enjoyed a successful career on Fleet Street that spanned several decades. Specialising in financial and business journalism, Davis worked for the Financial Times before being appointed City editor at the London Evening Standard. Between 1965 and 1968, Davis was economics editor at the Guardian.
In 1968 he was made editor of the satirical magazine Punch, prompting its rival Private Eye to dub him “Kaiser Bill”. He was succeeded by Alan Coren in 1977.
Davis went on to become one of the first presenters of the BBC’s World at One on Radio 4 and helped develop and present BBC Radio 2’s The Money Programme.
He wrote 20 books, and founded the in-flight British Airways magazine High Life, where he also served as editor-in-chief. Davis’ daughter Jacki described her father as “pioneering and innovative”, and a “self-made man” with a weakness for champagne, according to the BBC.
Davis appeared in an episode of the BBC’s Desert Island Discs, where he revealed that he left school aged 14 and came to Britain because his mother had married a British army sergeant. He shared his passion for cigars, and holidays in Sicily and the Bahamas, and recalled a “very grim childhood”, during which he was separated from his parents for several years.
Davis also admitted that witnessing “death and destruction” of the second world war had affected him throughout his life.
“I really don’t have much time for people, particularly young people, who complain about life today,” Davis said.
He emphasised that he was very proud to be British, and said that people who had become naturalised in Britain tended to be “more patriotic than the ones that were born here”.
Davis also spoke of the difficulties he encountered when he first came to Britain, and how he pretended to be Austrian due to “a great deal of hostility towards anything German”.
According to his daughter, Davis was a “great admirer” of Margaret Thatcher and even advised her “from time to time” when she was prime minister.
Davis died at his home in Cannes, southern France, on Saturday after heart failure. He is survived by his wife Sylvette, daughters Sue and Jacki, and grandchildren Lucinda and William.
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