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Ex-BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland dies after cancer battle

Former BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland has died at the age of 78, his family said.

Sir Christopher, who headed the BBC's board of governors before moving on to senior roles at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and BT, passed away on Saturday morning after battling prostate cancer.

The businessman was widely recognised for turning around the fortunes of the telecoms giant BT in the early noughties after penning a 10-point plan.

He then moved to lead the RSC where he oversaw a major redevelopment of the main theatre - as well as managing to cram in performances of all of Shakespeare's works in a year.

In a statement his family said: "Christopher died peacefully at home. He had defied cancer for three years and continued to live with his usual extraordinary warmth, generosity, energy and humour.

"He relished every day of his life, and to those that loved him he is irreplaceable.

"We're enormously proud of everything he achieved, from steering the BBC through tough times to his late flowering as a novelist, and we'll miss him more than we can say."

Showing he had many strings to his bow, Sir Christopher was also chairman of Leith's School of Food and Wine and Canongate Books.

He fenced for Ireland at the 1960 Olympic Games, was an avid wine collector and after retiring penned his first novel - Ashes In The Wind - in his 70s.

It received positive reviews, with Melvyn Bragg naming it his novel of the year, and was closely followed by a second book, Cathar, in 2016.

He also wrote a play which was produced in London, Easter Rising And Thereafter.

Sir Christopher was knighted in 1993 for his work as chairman of the Hammersmith and Queen Charlotte's hospitals.

Paying tribute, BBC director general Tony Hall said: "Sir Christopher Bland was an outstanding chairman of the BBC.

"He was a great communicator who both understood the creativity of broadcasting as well as the business of it. He was hugely admired and will be greatly missed."

BBC news presenter Huw Edwards tweeted: "Sincere sympathy. At the BBC many of us remember him as an exemplary chairman of the Board of Governors."

The novelist Robert Harris said: "Very sad to hear of the deaths of two old friends this morning, Christopher Bland and Alexander Chancellor. Both lived life to the full."

"He was a terrific character, a real force of nature, and I'll miss him," he added.

Sir Christopher was married to Jennie, who he met aged seven, and leaves behind a son, Archie, and four step-children, William, Georgia, Tara, and Jamie.

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