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Rob Spalding, AMI editor 1989-2014, dies, 85

Rob Spalding, the former editor of AMI, has died following a stroke. He was 85.

Spalding edited the magazine from 1989 to 2014 becoming a much loved and highly regarded figure in the international meetings industry and the wider association community.

He continued to work in a freelance capacity, writing case studies in his own inimitable style, until 2019, when CAT Media was taken over by US-based Northstar Travel Media, and he called it a day.

Martin Lewis, founder and managing editor of CAT Media, described Spalding as ‘loveable on a grand scale’ who was a ‘joy to be with’, sentiments that will be echoed throughout the industry.

“Rob was the doyen of the burgeoning conference and meeting industry and his opinions were law,” said Lewis. “The industry went to him for advice and guidance, but Rob was no egotist. He avoided the limelight and didn’t care much about financial success.

“He was focused on truth and the use of words. And he did everything as well as he could. Rob could write a feature about a teapot and make it colourful and engaging because he took time over it, enjoyed playing with words and he cared about the quality of everything he did.”

Steve Lewis, former publisher of CAT Media, said: “Rob was funny, unpredictable and taught me the joys of self-deprecation – never taking business too seriously but he always had a terrific eye for detail. He was a brilliant interviewer and he enjoyed incredible respect in the meetings world.”

In 2010, James Lancaster joined as deputy editor and took over as editor in 2014 in another role reversal. By this time Rob was 78 but showing no signs of wanting to give up his work.

Lancaster said: “I worked with Rob for ten years, first as his deputy editor and later as his editor, although the office hierarchy never meant much to him. Rob treated everyone he met with a warmth and generosity that made him universally loved in the meetings industry.

“Prone to creative flights of fancy, Rob was an excellent journalist and an always entertaining writer, who understood that people were the heart of every story. Trained in the Old School – his page markings belonged to a time when things were done properly! –  I will remember Rob with a smile and a twinge of sadness for a time when life felt more real, carefree, and altogether more human.”

Further tributes have were posted on social media.

Christian Mutschlechner, former director of Vienna Convention Bureau and now a consultant to the meetings industry, said: “A great journalist, always questioning and analysing the meeting industry behind the scenes, with a lot of humour and a glass of red wine.”

Heike Mahmoud, COO at CCH- Congress Centre Hamburg said: “He was really a great person, an inspiration to our industry, always asking the right questions. We will miss Rob.”

An amazing champion of our associations industry. A real star.”

Spalding leaves his wife, Kay, and son, Mark.

Additional reporting: Martin Lewis.

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