Monday 1 July 2013

Peter O'Sullivan dead at 64

Updated July 3, 2013
Peter "Sully" O'Sullivan has died at 64, found dead in his San Diego-area home last week.

The former editor-in-chief was many things to many people, but for most who worked with him, he was a tabloid genius whose Toronto Sun influence was felt off and on from the late 1970s to 1999.

Unfortunately, all that he gave to the Little Paper That Grew meant little to Quebecor. He was one of the first Sun executives to be axed when the long-lasting purge began in 1999.

Peter, says retired Sun Media executive Les Pyette, was hired by the late, great managing editor Ed Monteith.

"I am sorry to hear the news," says Pyette. "He was a natural newsman, an excellent tabloid editor. He could lay out a page better than most. Another old Sun soldier gone."

The Toronto Sun's 1980 John Lennon murder front page was all O'Sullivan. It was just one of many memorable fronts with his imprint on it as an unsung hero of the newsroom. He enjoyed pushing the envelop, perhaps wanting the Sun tabloid to be as tabloid as the Sun in his native England.

While Peter's Sun career began in the late 1970s and ended in 1999, those Sun years were not consecutive.

Peter spent time away from the tabloid, moving to a Sun Media paper in Orlando, Florida, then the Houston Post as editor in December 1983 after it was purchased by Sun media. He was 39 and editor in chief of the Post when he resigned in September of 1988 to pursue other opportunities.

"The Post under Peter made dramatic improvements,'' an Associated Press story quoted William Dean Singleton, whose Houston-based Media News Group Inc. bought the Post in 1987, as saying.

At the same time,.Don Hunt (co-founder of the Toronto Sun) resigned as the Post's publisher to head a new international division of Media News.

 In 1989, Peter was hired as managing editor of the St. Louis Sun, a new Missouri newspaper launched on Sept. 25, 1989, with an initial press run of 200,000. No doubt Peter sensed what Toronto Sun Day Oners experienced when the tabloid was launched on Nov. 1, 1971.

The new Sun tabloid, owned by Ingersoll Publications Co. in New Jersey, was competing for readership with the 110-year-old St. Louis Post Dispatch.

But the 1989 rising of a new Sun was short-lived. It folded seven months later, making its exit on April 25, 1990. But before it bid farewell, it was the talk of the town with the following headline: "He Bit Hers, She Sued His."

Knowing Peter O'Sullivan's work at the Toronto Sun, we are sure that headline was all Sully.

Peter made his way back to 333 King Street East in 1995 as editor in chief. After being axed in 1999, he made his way back to the United States, settling in Coronado, near San Diego.

Peter's last known newspaper job was a brief stay at the Union-Tribune in San Diego in 2004 as assistant news editor.

He leaves an ex-wife, step-children and step-grandchildren, says a Toronto Sun story.

If you want to share memories of Peter in the Toronto Sun Family blog, post them and we will launch a separate "Memories of" posting.

This blogger's memories include admiration for pushing the envelop in attempt to make the Toronto Sun a true tabloid. He was a key player during the glory years of the Sun.

If others can fill in the blanks of Peter's life and times, re his early years and the latter years, please do.

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