May 16, 2021

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Alex Brammer: City Editor’s History of the Daily Mail City Pages

During the fall of 1999, I got a phone call from envoy Paul Ducker, editor in chief of the Daily Mail.

Robin Esser, in a glorious tradition of the newspaper, invited me to join him for a glass of champagne at the Howard Hotel on the Embankment in central London.

He told me that Andrew Alexander, who was the clutching city editor for the Daily Mail, would be retiring from service full time in May 2000, and would I be interested in the job?

Historical: The Royal Exchange (right) and the Bank of England (left) at the turn of the century

For the past decade, I’ve been the financial editor for The Guardian, and politically speaking, I’m going to make the longest journey in journalism, from left to right. I also understood that if I were to land in office, I would follow in the footsteps of giants.

In most newspapers, city and corporate editors come and go, but in Mail it is a profession.

My most famous predecessor, Sir Patrick Sergeant, who is now “97 years old not out,” said this weekend: “Soon after I became a city editor in 1960, Lord Rothermere [Esmond Harmsworth] He asked if I was happy there.

I said: Very happy, thank you, sir. He replied, “Good, because you will find that the liberators of the city stay here for a long time, while the directors come and go.” I was a city editor for 24 years and my predecessor for 25 years.

A lasting legacy: Sir Patrick Sergeant reinvented financial journalism during his 24 years as a city editor

A lasting legacy: Sir Patrick Sergeant reinvented financial journalism during his 24 years as a city editor

As a junior financial journalist in the early 1970s, censor comments on the pages of Postal City were my first outlet.

Not only was he reinventing financial journalism, attracting the average reader not only to the city’s financiers, but could single-handedly move the price of the stock or the markets.

He had the ear of the nation’s chiefs and successive rulers of the Bank of England and Number 11.

The newspaper’s personal finance division, Money Mail, was one of its enduring legacies, the first of its kind in any national newspaper.

He put together a team that focused on the everyday problems facing readers: savings, mortgages, insurance, and more.

Section editor Margaret Stone was known for her wise advice and “Ask Margaret” letters still reach the city office today, and her immediate successor Tony Hazel has now answered aptly in the “Ask Tony” column.

The memory of the glorious sergeant’s reign and the ability of his successor Andrew Alexander to mobilize forces around Thatcher’s laissez-faire economics was legendary.

Alexander was skeptical of Europe long before Brexit appeared on the horizon. Among his big-nips was the revelation in 1989 that Lord Hanson had acquired a strategic stake in Britain’s largest industrial group ICI.

It launched a chain of events that saw ICI Astrazeneca’s pharmaceutical arm split as a separate pioneer, in the era of Covid, into vaccine for people.

A helping hand: Margaret Stone, the famous Money Mail editor, was known for her wise advice

A helping hand: Margaret Stone, the famous Money Mail editor, was known for her wise advice

Charles Duggid, who started his career as a city liberator in 1906, is another person who deserves to be well remembered.

Dogged’s stature stems from his authorship of How To Read The Money Article, a bestseller that helped popularize investment by ordinary citizens.

On the eve of World War I, the London Stock Exchange (LSE) was closed amid deep recession, market chaos and disaster over the war loan issuance.

Amid intense dissatisfaction among the 5,000 members of the London Stock Exchange, Duguid intervened in the hack.

On August 1, 1914, he posted half-page advertisements in the Financial Times and Financial News announcing that, with the closure of the LSE, sellers who would like to get paid for the securities they own and buyers who would like to acquire securities at the current low prices could buy and sell stocks at The Daily Mail Exchange for two shillings and six pence per trade.

The Daily Mail was heavily busy until August 1915. Trading was finally suspended “due to the war conditions now prevailing, the sluggishness in stock and stock trading and the pressure of war news on our space.”

For a year, the Daily Mail Exchange was the primary place to trade stocks in Great Britain!

The timing was especially important due to the economic turmoil in the run-up to the war.

Former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King says this was Britain’s biggest financial crisis until overtaken by the banking meltdown of 2007-2009 after nearly a century.

Mail’s City’s golden legacy, economic and personal financial coverage continues.

Me and my colleague, business editor Ruth Sunderland, along with Victoria Bischoff and Money Mail correspondents, are all writing for you, reader.

We care about you, as a private investor, whether you choose to dive straight into the stock market, save through an Easa, trust or pension fund.

But we also care about the future of Britain. This is why over the past two decades we have campaigned against financially driven offshore acquisitions with some pretty impressive successes.

Were it not for our siding with one side, our biggest defense company, BAE, might have ended up as part of Airbus, Astrazeneca a subsidiary of Pfizer and Unilever swallowed up by Kraft Heinz or hid away in Rotterdam.

City Pages strongly believes in the magic of markets, entrepreneurship, wealth creation and ambition.

But we also believe in justice, less greed, and better agreement for women and minorities on boards and business in the country more broadly.

We learned from our brilliant ancestors. We hope that future generations of the city’s correspondents, whether on the print page, in broadcast studios or online, learn something from us.

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