Jack McClelland

TORONTO (AP) _ Jack McClelland, who headed one of Canada's most influential publishing houses, has died. He was 81.

McClelland died Monday at his home in Toronto, said his friend and colleague Elsa Franklin.

Under his leadership, McClelland and Stewart became the biggest name in Canadian publishing. The company and its head became a strong voice for Canadian culture and a national identity.

Authors who rose to fame under McClelland's influence include Margaret Atwood, Mordecai Richler, Pierre Berton, Farley Mowat, Leonard Cohen and Peter C. Newman.

Known for his flamboyant publicity stunts, McClelland and Sylvia Fraser once dressed in togas and rode up Toronto's Yonge Street in a chariot to promote her novel ``The Emperor's Virgin.''

In 1977, he established a competition for the best first novel. Its $36,500 purse was an enormous sum for a Canadian literary award.

In early 1971, McClelland put his company up for sale, and only a loan from the Ontario Development Corp. kept it from bankruptcy. The company survived, but in 1985 McClelland was forced to sell his majority stake to real-estate developer Avie Bennett.

McClelland cut his last ties with the company in 1987.

The publishing firm was co-founded by McClelland's father, John, in 1906. Originally McClelland and Goodchild Ltd., it became McClelland and Stewart in 1918.