Piers Stefan Pughe-Morgan (born 30 March 1965) is a former editor of British tabloid newspapers the News of the World (1994–1995) and the Daily Mirror (1995–2004). He is credited as author of eight books and is editorial director of First News, a national newspaper for children. Morgan branched into television mainly as a presenter, but has become best known as judge or contestant in reality television programmes. In the UK, he is a judge on Britain's Got Talent alongside Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell. He is known in the United States as a judge on the show America's Got Talent, and the winner of The Celebrity Apprentice.
The third of four children, Piers Morgan was supposedly named after brewery heir and privateer motor-racing driver Piers Courage. He attended a private preparatory school until the age of 13 and then Chailey School, a comprehensive secondary school in Chailey, near Lewes, East Sussex. Morgan studied Journalism at Harlow College. After a brief career at Lloyds of London, he joined the Surrey and South London Newspaper Group, where he worked as a reporter on the South London Press. Morgan was recruited (he says headhunted by editor Kelvin MacKenzie) to join The Sun newspaper, specifically to work on the Bizarre column.
Career in newspapersEdit
Morgan's first major position in national media was as de facto editor of The Sun's show business column, Bizarre, under the editorship of Kelvin MacKenzie. In 1994, aged 28, he was appointed editor of the News of the World by Rupert Murdoch, becoming the youngest national newspaper editor in more than half a century. He quickly gained notoriety for his invasive, thrusting style and lack of concern for celebrities' right to privacy, claiming that they could not manipulate the media to further their own ends without accepting the consequences of a two way deal.
Morgan left this post shortly after publishing photographs of Catherine Victoria Lockwood, then wife of Charles, Earl Spencer leaving a detoxification clinic. This action ran against the editors' code of conduct, a misdemeanour for which the Press Complaints Commission took Morgan to task. Murdoch was reported as having said publicly that "the boy went too far." Morgan's autobiography The Insider states that he left the News of the World of his own choice and somewhat against owner Rupert Murdoch's wishes when he was offered the job of Editor at the Daily Mirror.
As editor of the Daily Mirror, Morgan was widely criticised and forced to apologise in 1996 for the headline "Achtung Surrender" a day before England met Germany in a semi-final of the Euro '96 football championships. The story was written by Justin Dunn.
In 2000, he was the subject of an investigation after Suzy Jagger wrote a story in The Daily Telegraph revealing that he had bought £20,000 worth of shares in computer company Viglen soon before the Mirror's 'City Slickers' column tipped Viglen as a good buy. He was found to have breached the Code of Conduct on financial journalism by the Press Complaints Commission, but Morgan kept his job. The view was expressed in media columns that Morgan had support in the boardroom, where his qualities as a successful bastard were seen to outweigh any suggestions that he might be lacking in personal integrity. The City Slickers columnists Anil Bhoyrul and James Hipwell, were both found to have committed more breaches of the Code, and were sacked before the inquiry. In 2004, further enquiry by the Department of Trade and Industry resulted in the DTI saying that Morgan would not face charges. On 7 December 2005 Bhoyrul and Hipwell were convicted of conspiracy to breach the Financial Services Act. During the trial it emerged that Morgan had in fact bought £67,000 worth of Viglen shares, emptying his bank account and investing under his wife's name too.
In 2002, the Daily Mirror attempted to move midmarket, claiming to eschew the more trivial stories of show-business and gossip. Morgan rehired John Pilger, who had been sacked during Robert Maxwell's ownership of the Mirror titles. Despite such changes, Morgan was unable to halt the paper's decline in circulation, a decline shared by its direct rivals The Sun and the Daily Star.
Morgan was fired from the Daily Mirror on 14 May 2004 after authorising the newspaper's publication of what were faked photographs of Iraqi prisoners being abused by British Army personnel. The Daily Mirror countered that it had fallen victim to a "calculated and malicious hoax" and apologised for their publication. Later, Morgan also had a monthly interview column in GQ magazine.
In May 2005, in partnership with Matthew Freud, he gained ownership of Press Gazette, a media trade publication together with its 'cash cow' the British Press Awards, in a deal worth £1 million. This ownership was cited as "one" of the reasons many major newspapers boycotted the 2006 awards. Press Gazette entered administrative receivership toward the end of 2006, before being sold to a trade buyer.
On 4 May 2006, Morgan launched First News, a weekly paper aimed at seven- to fourteen-year-olds. Morgan is editorial director at First News, responsible for bringing in celebrity involvement. He referred to the role as "editorial overlord and frontman".
He has a regular column in the 'Live' supplement of the Mail On Sunday.
Morgan is currently in the process of filing for Divorce from Marion Shalloe, whom he married in July 1991 in north Hampshire. They have three sons: Spencer (born July 1993), Stanley (born June 1997) and Albert (Bertie) (born December 2000). He has been linked romantically to The Guardian columnist Marina Hyde and The Daily Telegraph's gossip columnist Celia Walden, who is the daughter of the former Conservative MP George Walden. Morgan has stated that he is a Roman Catholic. .
Morgan appeared as a guest on Have I Got News for You in 1996, and he and Ian Hislop failed to keep their mutual contempt off-screen. Hislop accused Morgan of having him (Hislop) followed and his house watched. The conflict escalated and at one point Angus Deayton asked if they wished to go outside and have a fight. Later in the show, when shown his question in the "Odd One Out round" (Rupert Allason; Sting; a koala; Geoffrey Clements) Morgan responded, "Is the answer 'jam'?" in reference to a joke made by Eddie Izzard the previous week, saying, "Last week Eddie Izzard said it and everyone roared with laughter as if it was hilarious." Hislop retorted that Izzard got a laugh because "People like him". When Hislop successfully made the 'jam' joke later in the programme, Morgan replied, "Don't play the popularity line with me, Hislop", before appealing to the audience: "Does anyone actually like him?" The audience responded loudly in favour of Hislop. By the end of the programme Morgan claimed Hislop would be "getting new neighbours", insinuating photographers would be sent by him. Piers' guest spot became one of HIGNFY's most famous incidents. On the news of his sacking, the show repeated the clip.
Private Eye, of which Hislop is editor, has routinely referred to Morgan as "Piers Moron" (or, in a twist on the common practice of inserting a nickname in quotes between first name and surname, as 'Piers "Morgan" Moron') and more recently, "Rent a Gob" in reference to his appearance as a judge on television talent shows, a field in which he has no training. The magazine had originally referred to him as Piers 'Boy' Morgan, based on Rupert Murdoch's reference to him as 'the boy' after his departure from the News of the World. During his time at the Mirror, Morgan frequently threatened to publish damaging stories about Hislop, and while they never appeared, Morgan has staged numerous stunts such as gate-crashing a Hislop book signing with 'protestors' proclaiming 'Gnome Go Home'.
Following the publication of Morgan's book The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade, the Eye published an article suggesting that, far from Morgan being an insider and this a "diary", he was a spectator and his book contained many glaring inaccuracies - for example, references to Morgan supposedly having visited Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street in the early part of 1997, when in fact John Major was still Prime Minister. From time to time the Eye returns to this theme, seldom missing an opportunity to criticise the book.
In 2007, Ian Hislop chose Morgan as one of his pet hates on Room 101.
Morgan has had a long-running public feud with Jeremy Clarkson, presenter of Top Gear. In October 2003, on the last Concorde flight, Clarkson threw a glass of water over Morgan while the two were exchanging insults. In March 2004, at the British Press Awards, Clarkson cursed at Morgan and punched him three times - apparently Clarkson was angry that the newspaper had published photographs of him with a woman who was not his wife,