When Padraic Fallon took over from Hamish McRae as editor of Euromoney in December 1974, few could have predicted the dramatic impact he would have on a fledgling company. But perhaps his biggest influence of all as an editor was to be the pioneer of much of modern financial journalism.
In its first five years Euromoney had built its reputation on attracting the most important names in finance to contribute to its pages themselves. It was the forum of choice for the fast-growing global capital markets.
But Fallon was a journalist and journalists needed to write copy. So he set about transforming Euromoney and hiring journalists to fill Euromoney’s pages from all corners of the world. And of course he led by example, writing and commissioning market-defining pieces month after month, year after year.
He took an arcane, difficult-to-understand market and made it come alive on the page, through his words and his ability to make the people within those markets tell their own stories.
Padraic was the greatest teacher any journalist could have. His method was clear: write simply, be fair, be tough. But the real education was not in how to construct a sentence or how to make a feature flow, it was to see how much enjoyment you could have through a career in journalism. Padraic revealed this every day. He loved the buzz, he never tired of meeting new people and he showed that through work life-long friendships could be made.
He was also a tough man. Woe betide the journalist who was inaccurate or failed to follow his beloved style guide. As he once said in a memo to all journalists: “The next writer found using the word ‘ongoing’ will find themselves outgoing.” But that toughness was also a journalist’s best friend. Padraic would always stand by a writer and his or her story, often in the face of threats from some of the world’s most powerful companies, as long as the piece was fair and accurate.
Woe betide the journalist who was inaccurate or failed to follow his beloved style guide.
Padraic himself was a brilliant and fearless writer. What he understood, long before anyone else, was that the personality and beliefs of the leader of an organization defined the whole culture of the business, and often its success and failure, even in a numbers game such as banking. He was as likely to ask a bank chief executive what books he was reading as he was to grill them on their return on equity. It was a different form of financial journalism but the creed by which our writers and editors still try to live today.
Two stories – from the bookends of his Euromoney writing career – illustrate this.
In October 1979, he published his own interview with John Gutfreund, the managing director of Salomon Brothers who was crowned the King of Wall Street before being brought down by a government bond trading scandal immortalized in Michael Lewis’s book ‘Liar’s Poker’. It was the first full interview Gutfreund had given.
Read the article, but look closely at the questions. “You’ve said that what you like best is tackling complex problems. Why?” “Will you tolerate fools less than you do now as you get older?” “Which do you enjoy most – the deal making, the administration or the trading?” “Do you live, eat and breathe this job?” “How do you keep in touch around the world?” “Do you sit in the Room because you want to be seen there?” These questions helped Fallon paint an incisive portrait of the man.
He describes him as a “portly, restless figure who, like a bear, stalks the corridors… characteristic cigar in hand, doling out advice. His greatest joy is to watch a deal done elegantly and successfully.” Those who worked with Padraic might have said the very same thing about Fallon himself.
By 1994 Padraic had long moved on to the chairman’s seat at Euromoney and given up editing. But he still liked to write. His article published in January that year on Hilmar Kopper, the head of Deutsche Bank, was one he spoke of proudly until his untimely death in 2012 at the age of 66.
Padraic spent seven hours getting to know Kopper over the course of three meetings. It was his first interview as speaker of the board, the old title given to the bank’s leaders. Deutsche was at a fascinating inflexion point, moving from its German roots to try to become an international corporate and investment bank. It was not a well-understood institution at the time. Padraic casts light on it with the simplest questions: “Why? How? Such as?”
He also persuaded Kopper to allow a Euromoney photographer into a board meeting. It had never been photographed before. Some board members objected. Kopper introduced an extra item to the agenda to keep them at the table while the pictures were taken. If you want to understand Deutsche today, you should read this article from 25 years ago.
Padraic Fallon left quite a legacy.
Padraic Fallon edited Euromoney from 1974 to 1986, when he became managing director. He was executive chairman of Euromoney plc from 1992 until his death in 2012. Throughout, he retained the title of editor-in-chief.