Tim Waterstone

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Tim Waterstone
Born (1939-05-30) 30 May 1939 (age 84)
Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Education Tonbridge School
Alma mater St Catharine's College, Cambridge
Occupation(s)Businessman, author

Sir Tim Waterstone (born 30 May 1939) is a British bookseller, businessman and author. He is the founder of Waterstones, the United Kingdom-based bookselling retail chain, the largest in Europe.


Early life

Tim Waterstone was born on 30 May 1939 in Glasgow, Scotland. His father worked for a Glasgow tea company for over fifty years. [1] [2] [3] He grew up in "a rather cramped, 1930s detached house ... Ugly, unpretentious, nice big garden, fields at the end of it" in Crowborough, East Sussex, England. [2] He was educated at Tonbridge School and St Catharine's College, Cambridge, where he read English. [1] [2]


Waterstone worked for a broking firm in Calcutta, India. [1] Upon his return to England he worked as a marketing manager for Allied Breweries, 1964–73 and then W.H. Smith, 1973–81. [2]

Waterstone founded the bookselling chain Waterstone's in 1982, after he took a £6,000 redundancy payment from W.H. Smith. He set up his first branch in Old Brompton Road, Kensington, west London, his personal model being of heavily stocked and heavily marketed literary bookselling in stores ranging from the large to the huge (Waterstone's London Piccadilly), driven by the recruitment of highly read staff, almost all Oxbridge or Russell Group arts graduates straight out of university, (many of whom went on in time to build prominent careers across the arts world in general). The model was successful, and by ten years later, 1992, Waterstone's had grown to be the largest bookselling group in Europe.[ citation needed ] He became the founder chairman of HMV Media Group in 1998, which merged the businesses of Waterstone's and HMV. [4] He left the group in 2001. [4]

Waterstone chaired the DTI Working Group on Smaller Quoted Companies and Private Investors in 1999. [1] He was a founder investor in Bookberry, a Moscow booksellers modelled on Waterstone's. [5] He became the chairman of Read Petite, an e-book company, in 2013. [4]

Waterstone has published four novels: Lilley & Chase (Hodder 1994), An Imperfect Marriage (Hodder 1995), A Passage of Lives (Hodder 1996) and In For A Penny In For A Pound (Atlantic 2010). [2] His short story The Tiffany Glass Panel was published in The Mail on Sunday in 1994. He has published a semi-autobiographical business book, Swimming Against The Stream (Macmillan 2006) and many articles in the arts and business media. His memoir, The Face Pressed Against A Window was published by Atlantic Books in February 2019, as was the audiobook of the memoir, which he personally narrated. He appeared as a castaway in the BBC Radio programme Desert Island Discs broadcast on 4 August 2019.

Philanthropy and political activity

Waterstone was a chairman or board member of English International (1987–1992), the London Philharmonic Orchestra (1990–1997), Portman House Trust (1994–1996), the Academy of Ancient Music (1990–1995), Sinclair-Stevenson Publishers (1989-1994), Virago Press (1993–1995), Jazz FM (1991–1993), the London International Festival of Theatre (1990–1992), the Elgar Foundation (1992–1998), the British Library (1995–1997), King's College London Library (2000–2002), Yale University Press (1992–2013), Chelsea Stores (1996–2007), FutureStart (1992–2009), Virago Press (1995–1996), Hill Samuel UK Emerging Companies Investment Trust plc (1996–2000) and Downing Classic VCT (1998–2003). [1]

He has sat on the Booker Prize Management Committee, and acted as the Chairman of Judges for the Prince's Youth Business Trust Awards. [1] He served as a member of the visiting committee of Cambridge University Library (2007–2013). [1] He chaired Shelter's 25th Anniversary Appeal. [1] He served as Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University (2007–2015). [6]

Waterstone supports the Labour Party (he chose Clement Attlee as his 'hero' in the initial 2001 BBC Radio 4 series Great Lives). [7] He was opposed to the Iraq War and took part in demonstrations against it. [7] Waterstone is a campaigner for the three parties of the Left to merge into a new Labour Liberal Green Party - the LLG - so that their votes are no longer dispersed over the three, increasing the chance of electoral success. He is a campaigner also for the democratically desirable proportional representation of House of Lords membership, based on the general election popular vote. He proposes a membership of 500 peers appointed off party lists, and a further 100 from crossbenchers, to be selected by the Appointments Commission and chosen in the interests of special groupings, particularly regional ones. [8]

Personal life

Waterstone is twice divorced. [7] He is married to TV and film producer and novelist Rosie Alison. [2] They have eight children, one of them being actress Daisy Waterstone. He resides in Holland Park, London. [2] [4]

Waterstone is a member of the Garrick Club. [1] He is an Honorary Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge. He was knighted in the 2018 Birthday Honours for services to bookselling and to charity. [9]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Timothy John Stuart WATERSTONE". Debrett's . Retrieved 28 May 2016.[ permanent dead link ]
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "My Secret Life: Tim Waterstone, businessman and author, 71" . The Independent. 8 October 2010. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  3. "Birthday's today". The Telegraph. 30 May 2013. Archived from the original on 30 May 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2014. Mr Tim Waterstone, bookseller, 74
  4. 1 2 3 4 Harris, John (9 April 2013). "Tim Waterstone: 'If reading is going be all digital in 50 years, so be it'". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  5. Barrett, Claer (4 February 2011). "Oligarch poised to bid for Waterstone's". Financial Times.
  6. "Our history". Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  7. 1 2 3 "Interview: Tim Waterstone, businessman". The Scotsman. 14 September 2010. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  8. "Letter of the week: Stronger together". New Statesman. 19 May 2021. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  9. "No. 62310". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 June 2018. p. B2.
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