Deon du Plessis, founder of the Daily Sun, died from acute bronchitis at his home at the age of 59 in Johannesburg on Sunday.
“Deon’s death leaves a huge void. He was a consummate journalist and a taskmaster of note,” Daily Sun‘s editor-in-chief Themba Khumalo said in a statement.
“A big man in every sense of the word, Du Plessis transformed the newspaper landscape when he founded Daily Sun in 2002, in partnership with Media 24,” colleague and design consultant for the newspaper Richard McNeill said.
Du Plessis was an Argus Africa journalist, after which he became the editor of the Pretoria News and then managing director of Gauteng newspapers at Independent Newspapers, where he came up with the idea of the Daily Sun.
He then left Independent and joined Media24, who helped fund the newspaper with him.
The Daily Sun tabloid changed the South African media landscape, uncovering a whole new layer of newspaper readership among lower income groups.
Another brain child of Du Plessis was the Sunday Sun.
“His death is devastating for us all. It is hard to imagine the Daily Sun without him,” said Media24’s emerging markets CEO Fergus Sampson.
Du Plessis leaves behind his wife Vanessa, daughter Daniella and two grandchildren.
South African newspaper editors and journalists paid tribute to De Plessis on Twitter.
“Deon du Plessis. A brother editor and a maestro of the red tops. He taught us a thing or two. Rest in peace,” wrote City Press editor Ferial Haffajee.
The term “red tops” refers to tabloid newspapers.
“Sad news about Deon, one of the more colourful characters in print in recent years. Condolences to Vanessa and family,” the Star‘s editor, Moegsien Williams wrote.
“Condolences to all at the Daily Sun, all his colleagues, family and friends. #RIP #Deonduplessis,” Mercury editor Angela Quintal wrote on Twitter.
“Deon du Plessis, publisher of the Daily Sun & one of characters of South African #journalism, died a few hours ago. Hamba Kahle brother #RIP,” wrote Mail & Guardian website editor Chris Roper.
“Big loss for SA media,” Moneyweb editor Ryk van Niekerk wrote.
“On Monday 12/9 Deon du Plessis would of gone on long leave till the beginning of January. Died Sunday 11/9. Giant man, giant loss for Media24 and Daily Sun,” Beeld editor Peet Kruger wrote.
Business Day editor Peter Bruce wrote: “Sad to hear Deon du Plessis, journalist and raconteur, died today aged 59. Love to Vanessa.”
“#DeonduPlessis, father of South African red tops. He proved tabloids don’t have to be cheap & nasty, but can be a force for good. #RIP,” wrote freelance journalist Raymond Joseph. – Sapa