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Creator of Miss World Pageant Dies

November 9, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ Eric Morley, the millionaire entrepreneur who became known as ``Mr. World″ after creating the Miss World beauty pageant, has died at age 82.

Channel 5, which has broadcast recent pageants, announced Morley’s death just hours after contestants launched the 2000 beauty contest in London. He had been unable to attend the event because of apparent back pain.

Morley began his career in 1946 when he left the army and became an entertainment publicist. He later introduced commercial bingo to Britain and created ``Come Dancing,″ a show about ballroom dancing that became the world’s longest-running television series. He ran for parliament in 1979 and narrowly lost.

He had not intended the Miss World pageant to be an annual event when he organized a bathing beauty contest for the 1951 Festival of Britain. But the following year, the United States inaugurated the rival Miss Universe pageant, and Morley couldn’t resist the challenge.

In 1997, it had a television audience of over 2.5 billion people in 155 countries.

The contest regularly courted controversy, with critics saying it was demeaning to women. But Morley was unrepentant: ``If it is shameful to women then the best thing they can do is to turn it off,″ he once said.

His entertainment career began in 1946 when he left the army and was put in charge of publicity at Mecca, then a small thriving company. He was appointed as general manager six years later and then director and the company went on to be a major success.

He is survived by his wife, Julia, and four children. There was no immediate information on funeral details.

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