1. ITV Report

William G Stewart: Fifteen to One presenter and passionate Elgin Marbles campaigner dies at 82

William G Stewart paid £200 to develop a BT salesman's idea for the Fifteen to One quiz show. Credit: FremantleMedia Ltd/REX/Shutterstock

Tributes have been paid to former Fifteen To One presenter William G Stewart, who has died at the age of 82.

Stewart presided over what was dubbed one of TV's toughest quizzes from its inception in 1988 until 2003 after buying the option to develop the idea of a BT salesman for a relative pittance.

"That £200 was the best money I've ever spent in my life," Stewart later said.

William G Stewart met third wife Laura on the set of Fifteen To One. Credit: PA

He even found love on the set, marrying the Channel 4 show's voiceover artist Laura Calland - his third wife - in 1997.

Current host of the revamped show, Sandi Toksvig, led tributes to a "lovely man" and "consummate TV professional".

Comedian Adam Hills, who hosted a 2013 Fifteen To One celebrity special a year before the Toksvig-fronted relaunch, added:

Lincolnshire-born Stewart was also notable for his vocal role in the public campaign for the British Museum to give the Elgin Marbles back to Greece.

He was an expert in the coveted stone friezes, which have been fought over ever since being brought to Britain from the Acropolis in 1801, and even toured the US to lecture on the topic of their return.

William G Stewart was an expert on the Elgin Marbles and called for their return to Greece. Credit: PA

"I am not in favour of every work of art from antiquity being returned to its country of origin, but I think that the (Elgin Marbles) are a special case," he once said.

"And I regard Lord Elgin as a much more romantic and interesting character than the crude plunderer he's often portrayed as."

Stewart once lectured the audience on the case for the Marbles' return during an episode of Fifteen To One in 2001, for which he and Channel 4 faced criticism.

William G Stewart hosted Fifteen To One for 25 years. Credit: PA

Besides testing the public's general knowledge, Stewart was involved in a number of other TV hits.

He had produced and director credits on game shows The Price Is Right and Family Fortunes as well as the sitcom Bless This House.

A representative announced Stewart's death on Thursday, saying he passed away "peacefully this morning surrounded by his family after a brief illness".

Channel 4 said it was "saddened" to hear of the death of a "broadcasting legend", adding his "inimitable style" had "set 15 to 1 apart from all other quiz shows".