TRIBUTES have been paid to a former Daily Echo journalist who spent more than 40 years on the paper.

Mike Ford, who has died aged 81, was the business editor when he retired in 2004 and was widely regarded as one of the best informed commentators on the south's economy.

He gained an intimate insight into the workings of politics, commerce and industry in the Southampton area.

In the months leading up to his retirement he stepped back from day-to-day involvement with the workings of the business community, allowing him and his wife Gillian to spend time with their daughters in Italy and France.

But he retained his association with the Daily Echo and associated publications within the Newsquest Media group.

Mike, who lived at Slab Lane in West Wellow, joined the paper at Basingstoke and soon joined the head office in Southampton, where he worked on the paper's newsdesk. Later he specialised in news about industry and commerce and also became the paper's motoring correspondent.

Mike and his wife Jill were married in 1975. He also leaves a daughter, Michelle, and two children from Jill's first marriage, Rob and Claire.

For 17 years he edited a sailing magazine for the Royal Southampton Yacht Club and was also treasurer and webmaster at the Yachting Journalists' Association (YJA).

In a statement the yacht club said: "It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of Mike Ford.

"For many years Mike lent his considerable skills to editing many of our various publications, not least The Yachter magazine. He would often be found photographing and documenting club events for publication."

Posting on social media the YJA added: "Mike managed the membership aspects for many years and was a YJA member for even longer. His knowledge, experience and friendship will be a great loss to all of us.

"We have expressed our sincerest condolences to his wife Jill and daughter Michelle on behalf of all YJA members around the world.

"We are sure you will join our chairman Cliff Webb and the members of the YJA Committee in wishing to remember Mike’s life and his tremendous contribution to the YJA for so many long years."

Mike and his wife Gillian were married in 1975. He also leaves a daughter, Michelle, and two children from Gillian's first marriage, Rob and Claire.