Friday 24 January 2020

Eduardo Sanchez Junco

'Hello' publisher who gave readers weekly soap opera of royals and stars

Eduardo Sanchez Junco, who died on July 14, aged 67, was the millionaire Spanish publisher of Hola!, the celebrity news and gossip magazine launched in Britain in 1988 as Hello!

"Small. . . unpretentious and casually dressed, Sanchez Junco is equally energetic, voluble and direct," noted one observer. "He cuts a charming but unlikely figure for a modern Eurobroker."

But his success spawned so many imitators that the gossip magazine market was overrun with rivals.

Eventually Sanchez Junco met the owner of Hello!'s British rival OK! and agreed a truce in the bidding war for celebrity exclusives.

Hello! featured carefully-posed, sharp colour pictures and interviews with celebrities who knew that the magazine would refrain from digging for dirt and would also put them in control.

The magazine earned a reputation for paying hefty fees for interviews; its fixer and star interviewer was said to travel the world with cash stuffed into designer suitcases.

Rivals never quite matched the fairy-tale feel of Hello! Sanchez Junco's obsession with family values defined the new morality of the early 1990s; remaining scandal-free, with no grainy pictures and absolutely no adulterous sex.

It subjected stars to what sociologist Professor Stuart Hall called a "personalising transformation".

In 2000 OK! outbid Hello!, paying £1m for exclusive rights to cover the wedding of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas. Even so, a Hello! photographer evaded security and took shots with a hidden miniature camera.

Sanchez Junco successfully appealed against a legal injunction and Hello! appeared on news-stands with grainy images of the wedding.

But Douglas and Zeta-Jones sued Sanchez Junco and Hello! The poor quality pictures in Hello!, Zeta-Jones declared, made her wedding reception look like a "disco".

Sanchez Junco apologised to the couple, and was ordered to pay them damages as well as compensation to OK!

He was born in Palencia in north-west Spain in 1943. His father, Antonio Sanchez Gomez, was a journalist with Barcelona daily, La Prenza and started a celebrity gossip sheet called Hola!

Within 20 years, Hola! had been transformed from a four-page flimsy to Spain's bestselling magazine with a weekly circulation of 250,000, and promising a taste of "la spuma de la vida" (the froth of life).

When Spain joined the European Community Sanchez Junco expanded Hola! by distributing it in other EC countries.

When he launched Hello! he made the content exclusively British. Within two years weekly sales exceeded 250,000. He once paid £1m for negatives of pictures showing Princess Diana, sunbathing topless, and suppressed their publication.

By 1992 Hello!'s circulation mushroomed to 1.3m copies a week. "It is a weekly soap opera," explained his mother, "all the ins and outs of the lives of the rich and famous." Its success led in 1998 to the launch of a French version, Oh La!

Sanchez Junco diversified into farming, wine-growing and became a part-owner of Spain's Antena 3 TV channel, avoiding interviews and public appearances and become known as Don Eduardo.

Eduardo Sanchez Junco is survived by his mother, his wife and their three children.

Sunday Independent

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