Padraic Fallon 1946–2012: A life in friendship
|When Padraic Fallon turned 60, his family and friends worked with Euromoney to produce a private, slightly tongue-in-cheek issue of the magazine. The contributions written by his closest friends and colleagues for that project provide a fitting tribute to the man, his life and his achievements.
Padraic Fallon was born in County Wexford in 1946, the sixth and youngest son of the poet Padraic and Dorothea.
He brought his childhood to life in his first book, A Hymn of the Dawn, published in 2003, which gave a fictionalized account of his formative years in southeast Ireland, the mysteries and magic of the countryside and its people and, notably, his father, as well as his five brothers.
He began his career in 1969 in the City of London office of Thomson as a financial reporter, before joining the Daily Mirror in 1970.
Two years later he made two decisions that changed his life for ever: he joined the City desk of the Daily Mail and he married Gillian, to whom he remained wed for 40 years.
According to Patrick Sergeant, who founded Euromoney in 1969 and was the City editor of the Mail, the two decisions were not unrelated: “We owe it all to Gillian Fallon. But for her, and his ardent wish to marry her, Padraic might not have left the comfort of the Daily Mirror City office in 1972. He suspected that his future father-in-law thought not much of journalists and nothing at all of the Daily Mirror. Accordingly, he came to see me as City editor of the Daily Mail, concealing the above but revealing the charm that was later to sell a thousand pages, and his admiration for the Mail and me. It was the beginning of a 40-year friendship that I cherish.”
A close colleague during those early days on the Daily Mail was another celebrated financial journalist starting out in his career, Neil Collins, who recalls: “Padraic Fallon was an accidental journalist. Unlike the rest of us in the Daily Mail City office, he never seemed overawed by the business he found himself in. Looking back, it was a pretty whacky business: impossibly glamorous from the outside, crazily illogical on the inside.”
Those formative years helped to mould the mantra of the Fallon career: work hard and play hard. Collins recalls one incident: “There was too much time for mischief, especially when Patrick Sergeant was away and the unfortunate Peter Wainwright was in charge. We were awful. Peter would return from a lunch of Worthingtons White Shield, and with a manic, passing insult for the rest of us, pull the chair out from under his chaotic desk.
“One day Padraic Sellotaped the chair to the piles of papers, torn bits of newspaper, documents and debris on the desk. Peter returned from lunch, leered at us and yanked at the chair. The effect was truly impressive, almost burying him in piles of scrappy notes, long-forgotten bits of biscuit, books and copies of Guns ’n’ Ammo. Peter’s already florid face went an even deeper shade of crimson under his white hair.”
After two years in the Mail’s City office, Sergeant decided he had other plans for Fallon. In 1974, Padraic was despatched to Beirut to edit the title Middle East Money, or MEMO. It was a steep learning curve in many ways.
Patrick Sergeant says: “It was, he said later, probably the most formative experience of his life. MEMO was a joint venture with a Lebanese gentleman called Marwan Iskandar, who was so nice that he never told you any unwelcome news, just the stuff he thought you wanted to hear. Padraic slaved away in the heat and with breakdowns at the typesetters when the electricity went off at 3 in the morning. The deadline was that the film must catch the 11.40 am MEA flight for London Heathrow on Fridays. That meant a 24-hour stretch without sleep or rest from dawn on Thursday. After he took the film to the airport, he would collapse into bed, to be woken by me on the telephone, shouting: “WHERE’S MEMO?”
“At Heathrow by now,” he’d say. “No, it’s not,” I’d say, rather cross – though not as cross as he was with his colleague in Beirut. “Don’t worry,” said Marwan. “It’ll be all right next week.” After three weeks of me bellowing at him down the phone, Padraic went directly to MEA and checked. There was no 11.40 flight to Heathrow. There never had been. “Never mind,” said Marwan, “they may put one on.”
After a brief return to the Mail’s City desk, Sergeant asked Fallon to move to Euromoney to become its new editor in 1974. In its five years to then, Euromoney magazine had become a respected and successful publication documenting the growth of the international capital markets. Under Fallon, it took off to reach unimagined heights.
Sergeant says: “Apart from starting the magazine in 1969, it was the best thing I ever did for Euromoney. He changed Euromoney out of recognition, focusing on the international markets and the extraordinary mixture of people who dominated them.”
In the 1970s, Hans-Joerg Rudloff was one of those bankers trying to build the international bond markets. Now chairman of investment banking at Barclays, Rudloff recalls the part Fallon played in their development: “The Genillards, Guts, Hambros, Yassukovichs, Stancliffs, Cravens, von Clemms and many others were tireless salesmen travelling the world and, like missionaries, spreading the gospel of the free capital markets and their benefits.
“They would not have succeeded without someone like Padraic Fallon, who believed in the idea. Padraic lent his intelligence, relentless enthusiasm and energy to the objective to help to spread the word. He managed to advance the cause without making compromises, and believed when others doubted. He did not take refuge in the generally accepted ideas of the world and its organisation but helped to promote financial activity that was considered unorthodox or even revolutionary.
“Padraic believed that entrepreneurs could very well see beyond their immediate self-interest and supported individual initiative against firmly established and vested interests. He helped us to fight many battles and convince an ever-growing number of governments, companies and investors that there could be a different world, which would make life better for everyone. Padraic did not hesitate to criticise, measure or validate the actions of market participants using the highest intellectual and ethical standards.”
The late Ian Kerr, the celebrated Euromarkets diarist, remembers the impact that Euromoney had under Fallon: “The impact of Euromoney was extraordinary among a tiny minority audience, but the word spread like wildfire. I was a pawn in the game, but I worked for Julius Strauss at Strauss Turnbull & Co, one of the leading market makers of the first Eurobonds. Julius and his two most celebrated traders, Stanley Ross and Paul Sherwood, knew that they had hooked a sizeable fish with the new market, but they didn’t know that it would be bigger than Moby Dick. The specialists in UK government gilt-edged bonds sneered at the new Euromarkets.
“The introduction of Euromoney magazine lent instant credibility. ‘They’re writing about your market,’ I told Julius, and suddenly there was a scramble to read the copy as soon as it arrived.”
Euromoney grew throughout the 1970s and 1980s, propelled by Sergeant, Fallon and his colleague of nearly 40 years, Richard Ensor, who now succeeds Padraic as chairman. The company bought or launched a raft of new titles and branched out into new areas such as conferences, books and directories. Business flourished as the financial markets prospered, leading the company to practise what it preached in 1986 by becoming a public company via a listing on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange, before joining the London Stock Exchange in 1990.
During the 1980s, Fallon started to take on new responsibilities. He became managing director in 1985, chief executive of the company in 1989 and eventually chairman in 1992, and brought about the transformative acquisition of Institutional Investor in 1997.
With new responsibilities came new challenges. While Fallon always retained his title of editor-in-chief of Euromoney and all its publications, he relinquished day-to-day editorial oversight of the magazine in 1986. A new career as a businessman and salesman was opening up.
Neil Osborn, Euromoney’s group publisher, recalls: “Padraic of course, is a pretty good salesperson as salespersons go. Thousands of clients in umpteen countries have been induced to part with money by his special brand of charm. But it was I who raised his game to Olympic standards by telling him the secret of sales.
“I let slip the precious knowledge one evening in New York. We’d just tumbled off the plane from London, as I recall, and were steaming down Park Avenue on our way to dinner. As we walked – I think Padraic was entertaining me, as he often did, from his endless store of esoteric knowledge – I spotted a man who looked a trifle down on his luck as he propped up the corner of a building on 52nd or maybe 53rd. He had in his hand a disposable cup. Like a good New Yorker, I dropped a couple of quarters in the cup as I went by.
“The chairman thought for a moment, turned on his heel, dug in his pocket and poured a large handful of change into the beggar’s cup. The man looked first very startled, then very pleased, and blessed Fallon very handsomely.
“I thought no more about it all, and next day we went on our calls to clients. The noon slot was a brief, but very pleasant meeting, which yielded 24 inside-front-cover double-page spreads right then and there. ‘It works, doesn’t it,’ said the chairman as we hit the street.”
Padraic also took on new responsibilities within the Daily Mail & General Trust, the majority shareholder in Euromoney Institutional Investor, joining its board in 1999.
Throughout the 21st century, Fallon showed few signs of slowing down. Euromoney continued to grow and acquire – with takeovers of businesses such as Metal Bulletin, BCA and Ned Davis Research propelling the company to a market capitalization of more than £1 billion, profits of close to £100 million a year and a place in the FTSE 250.
Fallon continued to do what he loved best: travel, meet people from across the financial markets and be a wise counsel to some of the most important names in international finance. Heads of state, ministers, bank governors and chief executives would all open their doors to Fallon whenever he came to visit.
But it would be wrong to define Fallon purely through his business life, successful and influential as it was. He was devoted to his family: his wife and his four children, Jolyon, Nicola, Harriet and Annabel, and their own, growing families, as well as the extended Fallon clan for whom, despite being the youngest of the siblings, Padraic was something of a family head.
He also had interests outside work. He loved books. Many was the time you’d see him in the Cockpit, the pub closest to Euromoney’s offices, having a quiet pint and a sandwich, engrossed in his latest read. A particular favourite were the books of Patrick O’Brian featuring the exploits of English naval captain Jack Aubrey during the Napoleonic wars.
He also wrote books: he followed up A Hymn of the Dawn with The Circles of Archimedes in 2010.
But perhaps his fondest recreation time was spent pursuing country sports. He loved shooting and in particular fishing. In the latter discipline, no salmon was safe, and he became something of a legend, as angling writer and friend Tom Fort reveals: “For many years rumours – never substantiated – have been circulating in the high places of fishing that behind Fallon’s gleaming spectacles, pink, round cheeks and the clouds of pipe and cigar smoke in which those rubicund features are generally wreathed, there lurks one of the keenest intelligences ever to be directed at the problem of persuading a fish to take a fly.
“He certainly caught fish, more than me. But how did he do it? Once he pointed out to me a rock. Puffing on his trusty meerschaum, he observed: ‘There should be a fish behind that rock.’ There wasn’t, but that’s beside the point. He had demonstrated his uncanny ability to read the water, an ability derived from his intuitive understanding of the workings of nature and empathy with its creatures.”
His friend and fellow fisherman Jeremy Paxman recalls a trip to Russia, which became better known for its wildlife on land rather than in the water: “During an expedition to the Kola peninsula shortly before the turn of the second millennium, while others concentrated on fishing for salmon, Fallon decided to go and see a family of bear-cubs swimming in the river.
“Conventional wisdom has it that the one thing to be avoided in close encounters of the ursine kind is to come between a mother and her cubs. But Fallon – who in the fullness of time was to acquire his own Linnaean classification as homo gombeenensis – knew better.
“On approaching the bear-cubs, Fallon stood up in the boat, raised his arms above his head and let out a load roar. One second later, from the bank six feet away, a mother bear lifted her head, cast her eye upon the extraordinary spectacle of a white-haired Irishman waving his arms in the air, and raised herself to her full eight feet. Stretching her claws into the air, she answered his lisping Celtic imitation with a bellow of such intensity that the great naturalist’s normally rubicund face went ashen.
“Pausing only to utter a string of profanities directed at the blameless Russian boatman, Fallon showed his familiarity with the customs of the bear kingdom by sinking to his knees in the recognised display of submission. Either deciding that the naturalist’s flesh was too well-marinated for her taste, or charitably concluding that stupidity did not deserve to be rewarded by being eaten, she allowed the boat to make a speedy escape.”
It seems appropriate to leave the final word on Padraic Fallon to Lord Rothermere, chairman of DMGT, to whom he was a wise counsel just as he was to Rothermere’s father before him.
“We all know the cliché ‘never judge a book by its cover’. And we all know Padraic hates clichés. But it could well apply to him. At first meeting it’s hard to get past that Irish persona – he may come across to those who don’t know him as a bit of an old Irish poacher, the kind you’d normally find fishing in someone else’s part of the river.
“Of course, those of us that know him well understand what lies behind that demeanour. One of the most impressive things about him is his planning, and his attention to detail. He has a very keen, quick and agile mind that likes to leave nothing to chance. It pays to listen closely to what he says – each word is very carefully chosen. And even before that, you have to earn his respect. He’s one of the most loyal and decent people one could ever hope to meet. Not only has he given me wise and honest advice, he has shown me what it is to be a brilliant chairman.”