‘We have lost our patriarch’: Dictionary corner’s Susie Dent leads tributes (and uses a nine-letter word) as Marcel Stellman, the man who brought Countdown to UK screens, dies aged 96

  • Countdown creator Marcel Stellman passed away at the age of 96 , family said
  • Belgian-born creator of daytime TV series was also record producer and lyricist  
  • Dictionary corner’s Susie Dent led tributes today to the gameshow’s ‘patriarch’ 

Countdown creator Marcel Stellman has died at the age of 96, his family have confirmed.

The Belgian-born creator began his career as a producer and international manager at Decca Records before going on to buy the French TV series Des Chiffres et Des Lettres (Numbers and Letters) and remaking it in the UK as Countdown in 1982.  

He was also a record producer and lyricist who wrote songs for stars including Cilla Black, Petula Clark, Charles Aznavour, The Shadows and Tony Bennett.

In a statement today his family said: ‘The death has been announced on May 2 of Marcel Stellman, 96, former record executive with Decca Records, a prolific song lyricist whose hits included Tulips From Amsterdam and the man who brought the Countdown TV game show to Great Britain, the first programme to be broadcast on Channel 4, where it has been aired continuously since 1982.’

Today Dictionary Corner’s Susie Dent led tributes to the gameshow’s ‘patriarch’ who ‘brought to the UK a format that almost everyone has played and loved’.

The creator of the hit gameshow Countdown, Marcel Stellman (pictured with wife Jean), has died at the age of 96, his family have confirmed

 Dictionary corner’s Susie Dent led the tributes to the gameshow’s ‘patriarch’ who ‘brought to the UK a format that almost everyone has played and loved’

In a post she wrote: ‘Very sad news for the Countdown family today: with the death of Marcel Stellman we have lost our patriarch and most passionate advocate. 

‘He brought to the UK a format that almost everyone has played and loved. And we loved him.’

Meanwhile former Countdown host Carol Vorderman, who appeared on the show for 26 years from 1982 until 2008, also paid tribute to the show’s creator.

She wrote: ‘I am so sorry to hear this news Mark….x Marcel and Jeanie and I had so many very happy decades together, forging a path for Countdown in the early days and working hard together to make it the juggernaut it then became….Happy days. A great life well lived.’      

Stellman’s nephew also wrote on Twitter: ‘It is with our deepest sorrow we share with you news of the death of our beloved Uncle – Marcel Stellman, 96, who passed away late last night. Marcel is survived by his beloved wife Jean.’   

Marcel Leopold Stellman was born in Belgium on February 15, 1925 and worked as a producer and international manager at Decca Records from the mid-1950s up to 1989, alongside names including Sir Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Dame Vera Lynn.

Stellman then brought the French TV series Des Chiffres et Des Lettres (Numbers and Letters) to the UK as Countdown in 1982.

Stellman worked as a producer and international manager at Decca Records before going on to pitch the gameshow to several networks

Fans, including former Countdown host, took to social media to pay tribute to the gameshow’s creator

Carol Vorderman (pictured with former host Richard Whiteley) appeared on the show for 26 years from 1982 until 2008

He pitched the concept to several networks and it was ultimately picked up by Yorkshire Television, which commissioned a series of eight shows.   

The series was later bought by a fledgling Channel 4 and became the first programme to be aired following its launch in November 1982, hosted by Richard Whiteley. 

Following Whiteley’s death in 2005, hosts Des Lynam, Des O’Connor, Jeff Stelling and Nick Hewer have also hosted the show. 

Stellman appeared on the programme’s celebrations for its 2,000th episode in 1997, its 3,000th episode in 2001 and 5,000th episode in 2010.

His association with television began in the 1940s and 1950s when he presented children’s programmes, including Pinky And Perky, where he selected the songs the two pig puppets would sing.

Stellman was a recipient of a Basca Gold Badge Award in 1988 and received an Ivor Novello Award as lyricist for Dance On by Kathy Kirby in 1963.

He lived off Baker Street in London for many years and is survived by his wife Jean.

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