DAVID YELLAND was a surprise choice five years ago. A quiet man, his background in City journalism appeared an unlikely training ground for editor of the bold, brash soaraway Sun.
He has acquired none of the public notoriety of his more flamboyant rival, Piers Morgan of The Mirror. Yet he has proved a steadying hand at a newspaper that was looking a little wobbly in the summer of 1998 when the combination of showbusiness and royal stories favoured by his predecessor, Stuart Higgins, was beginning to seem threadbare.
Mr Yelland told senior journalists yesterday that the newspaper's proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, had set him six goals when he became editor. Principal among these were increasing The Sun's lead over The Mirror, forging closer ties to New Labour and giving the title a more serious edge.
Mr Yelland said he had succeeded in what he had been asked to do and the time was right to move on. Business school beckons, probably Harvard in the spring, followed by a place in Mr Murdoch's management team at the News Corporation, the newspaper's parent company, in America.
While the mischievous world of Fleet Street always speculates when an editor departs, Mr Yelland certainly seemed very happy at the announcement and insisted it was exactly what he had told Mr Murdoch he would like to do.
"You can only do this job for a certain number of years. The sensible thing to do is to close one chapter and not cling on until either you go bonkers or you get kicked out on the streets," he said.
"I think the paper has got integrity [now] and is more respected than it has ever been before. I think our stories are followed around town in a way they haven't been before. But I'm 40 this year and I've got to think about where I want to go."
He said he had always wanted to return to the United States - where he once worked as The Sun's New York correspondent and later as deputy editor of the New York Post - and to business school. "It's a dream of mine," he said. …