The Editors: Christopher Fildes, 1969 to 1972
March of the heavyweights
By Christopher Fildes
In the year of Euromoney’s 50th birthday, it is something to say that I was present at its creation. I was its first editor. I was there to see our very first edition ceremonially handed to Esmond, Viscount Rothermere, chairman of the Daily Mail Group, our backers. He passed this treasure on to his chauffeur, observing: “Read that Henderson, it will improve your mind.”
The creator, of course, was and is Patrick Sergeant – nowadays Sir Patrick, in those days the Daily Mail’s City editor – who had spotted a new market springing to life around him. From far and wide, banks and bankers were flocking to London. The age of sterling’s ascendancy had gone for ever, but surely the skills that had once financed the trade of the world could find other uses in other currencies? Offshore dollars were floating around Europe – Eurodollars, as they were called: hence ‘Euromoney’. (No relation to the single currency; that came later.)
To bring Euromoney into being, Patrick drew on the little team of City scribes who sat around a wooden table outside his office. We were to solicit advertising, sell subscriptions or (in my case) edit – naturally, in what passed for our spare time.
I have a vivid memory of telling the late Rodney Leach, then at Rothschild, what we hoped to do. He was enthused: “I’ve been telling the Financial Times to do something like this for 18 months.” All too soon, in those pioneering days, our press date loomed and I found myself on the Sussex coast, helping or hindering a firm of printers who were putting Euromoney together. It would look professional, I thought, in its black and gold jacket, with its parade of heavyweight contributors, high among them the governor of the Swiss National Bank, the splendidly-named Dr Stopper. All in all it was scheduled to run to 32 pages, no less – but something was wrong. I had only brought enough copy to fill 31 of them. Whoops.
Had I lost an article? Well, yes, I had, but that last page had to be filled. I sat down and wrote a letter home from a banker called Herbie, vicepresident of the Last National Bank of Boot Hill, only the 87th American bank to open in London.
Perplexed at first – “Why come to London to lend dollars? You might as well go to Boot Hill for tea and muffins” – he soon found his way. It was Herbie who discovered submerging markets and labelled the Savoy Grill ‘the Dealmakers’ Arms’. He went on writing home in the back pages of Euromoney for three decades.
In those early editions, the heavyweights marched on.
The Earl of Cromer, a governor of the Bank of England, wrote for us. So did the Bundesbank’s Otmar Emminger. So did the great Siegmund Warburg – but, to our horror, something in his text was misprinted. Eric Roll, who worked so long and closely with him, once said that he might forgive big mistakes but never small ones. We discovered just what this meant. The telephone nearly melted.
One collision came when Pierre Werner, the prime minster of Luxembourg, described his committee’s plans to give Europe a single currency. This might then have passed off as an academic exercise, but it drew a thunderous counterblast from Sir George Bolton, who had been the Bank of England’s international director and most original thinker. Now he denounced Werner’s plan as a clumsy merger that would only end in tears, as such mergers so often do. The argument continues.
Best of all, we began to draw contributions from the new market’s leaders. Michael von Clemm, the Harvard anthropologist, was to leave his mark on London. To his dismay, he had discovered that the natives’ cuisine featured custard. He backed two French chefs who had worked for the Rothschilds. Soon enough, the Roux brothers had a constellation of Michelin stars.
Michael went on to explore London’s derelict docklands, looking for somewhere to build a back office. Then the notion struck him: why not a front office? He was Canary Wharf’s founding father and its vast financial factories are his monument, but his own office was in Mayfair: “So much more convenient for one’s wine merchant and, of course, one’s airport.”
His rival and friend, Stanislas Yassukovich, grandson of a Tsarist general, had been sent to sort out White Weld’s London office when his predecessor disappeared from an ocean liner. Stani’s memoir, ‘Two Lives’, is the classic source-book for the birth and growth of an international market, and his many distinctions included the chair of the Cirencester Park Polo Club.
As this market grew, so our magazine grew with it and began to outgrow its early days as Patrick Sergeant’s cottage industry. It could no longer be run from the table outside his office and it needed a full-time editor, not a part-timer. So I passed the baton on and settled down to ghost-write Herbie’s letters home.
I still hope that Henderson, all those years ago, found that Euromoney was improving.
Christopher Fildes was the first editor of Euromoney from 1969 to 1972. For many years he has written on finance and public policy, past and present - notably in the Daily Mail, the Spectator, the Daily Telegraph and, of course, Euromoney. He has twice won the Wincott Award, regarded as the preeminent award for financial journalism.