Associated Newspapers’ long-standing legal chief Harvey Kass is to leave the newspaper group after more than two decades.
Kass has spent over 20 years at the newspaper group, the last 17 as head of legal, and is widely regarded as a stalwart of the Fleet Street legal scene. Under his reign journalists at Associated publications Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday have been able to enjoy a robust journalistic culture.
Kass’s wide remit covered the publishing group’s corporate activities, which during 2006 included fighting for distribution rights for its freesheets Metro and the now-defunct London Lite.
He was also responsible for keeping a close eye on any defamation claims brought against Associated’s many publications, as well as upholding the fundamental principles of freedom of expression.
Journalists were told this morning that Kass has decided to leave the company after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He will exit at the end of the year but will continue in an advisory capacity to help hand over to his successor, who is yet to be appointed.
In a statement Associated chief executive Kevin Beatty said Kass was leaving to “seek a more balanced lifestyle”.
The statement added: “The changes in our business over the last 17 years have seen the emergence of the internet, the launch of Metro, conditional fees and super injunctions to name but a few.
“Harvey’s not only adapted and led his team to provide commercial and editorial areas of the business with an outstanding legal service but has also been at the forefront of industry lobbying on freedom of expression and commercial issues that affect our group.”
An opinion maker in the world of media law, Kass has been a fierce critic of the use of conditional fee agreements in libel cases, stating in 2006: “The world has gone mad when the cost of defending one article can equal the annual salary of 100 journalists.”
Kass also launched a scheme to give pro bono defamation and human rights advice to less privileged journalists and newspapers in developing Commonwealth countries.