The publisher and author Naim Attallah died in London earlier this week. His obituary was posted today by the Daily Telegraph:
Naim Attallah, who has died aged 89, was a Palestinian-born entrepreneur who enjoyed a lucrative business career, notably with the luxury jeweller Asprey of Bond Street, but was better-known for his rather less financially rewarding role as proprietor of Quartet Books – a publishing company that he boasted had “employed more pretty girls than MGM and 20th Century Fox put together. […]
Attallah made little enough money from his publishing imprints, but some of his other ventures were so unremunerative as to be purely philanthropic. In 1981 he purchased the magazine Literary Review, installing Auberon Waugh as editor in 1986, and sank some £2 million into it with no hope of return, while Waugh drew a minimal salary and often paid contributors out of his own pocket.
The two men fiercely admired each other’s commitment to producing a first-class magazine (although it was too unpretentious ever to become fashionable) and in 2019, nearly two decades after Waugh’s death, Attallah edited A Scribbler in Soho, a tribute volume.
In 1992 he became the proprietor of another fledgling magazine, which aimed for a similar combination of intelligence and lack of stuffiness – The Oldie. It was edited by his old foe Richard Ingrams, and they too became friends, Ingrams describing him as “the first rich person I’ve met whom I like”. But by the time The Oldie finally began to flourish in the new millennium, Attallah had sold it on to John Paul Getty for a minimal profit.
Quartet Books also reprinted Auberon’s book Waugh on Wine in 2019.
At the time Attallah was born in 1931, Palestine was governed under a British mandate. According to the Daily Mail:
Attallah came to the UK in 1949 to study.[…] He was often to be found dining at his favourite restaurant in Shepherd Market, was happily married. He said he enjoyed flirting with women but never had affairs with them. ‘Darling, you’re pretty, come work for me,’ was his usual chat-up line. and it worked. […] His stable of employees — all fiercely loyal — included novelist Daisy Waugh, biographer Anna Pasternak and Emma Soames.
Thanks to Dave Lull for sending these links.