Media: Where the FT meets Loaded

Jeff Randall's Sunday Business is proving a success, outflanking its rivals and confounding the sceptics. By Paul McCann

It is typical of Jeff Randall that he conducts his interviews in a greasy spoon cafe called Andrew's. It is on Gray's Inn Road, just down the street from the old offices of his Sunday Business newspaper, and this is where this most unpretentious of editors lured many of the 35 journalists who now work to produce his paper.

They sat through what then had to be a sales pitch. Today Sunday Business is selling 50,000 copies a week and has gained a reputation for producing not only good stories but also, unlike some broadsheet rivals, stories that are true. Scoops have included the failure of Bernie Ecclestone's Formula 1 bond, and Candover's bid for Mirror Group last week. After just a year, the paper is well on its way to the projected three-year break- even point of 80,000 sales a week.

But when Randall was recruiting in Andrew's, Sunday Business was not an alluring prospect for any but the most desperate journalist. It was started in April 1996 by Tom Rubython, the maverick publisher-journalist, and lurched from one financial catastrophe to another, losing staff and backers while attracting only libel writs. It closed in July 1997, and was relaunched under the Barclay brothers' ownership in February 1998.

"When a newspaper collapses, anyone in a secure job is likely to ask, `why should I risk my career?'," says Randall, 45, tucking into poached egg on toast and a giant mug of tea. "Senior journalists who knew me understood what I had planned, and believed I could build the trust the paper would need. It was the more junior ones who were wary."

Over multiple fry-ups in Andrew's, Randall built a staff largely from The Sunday Times, The Daily and Sunday Telegraph, the Evening Standard and the International Herald Tribune.

Some say now that Randall was the only man who could have made Sunday Business rise from the ashes. A former, and almost legendary, editor of The Sunday Times's business section, unusually in journalism, Randall is both popular and successful. "A lot of people are here just because of him," says one Sunday Business journalist. "There is a real consensus in the office that you want to work your guts out for Jeff. Which is just as well, because there is a hell of a lot of space to fill."

Alan Ruddock, editor of Sunday Business's sister paper The Scotsman, and a former colleague from The Sunday Times, respects what Randall did just in getting together a staff: "At the same time he was recruiting, I was briefly embroiled in the Mirror Group's plans for Sporting Life. It seemed to me that persuading 50 journalists to leave secure jobs for a start-up title was going to take a very, very long time. But Jeff managed it extremely quickly. It was down to his reputation and powers of persuasion."

Randall built his reputation during the soaraway days of the Eighties economic boom. Where other Sunday Times business editors had courted the patrician rulers of City finance, Randall cultivated those who epitomised the brash end of the deregulated Eighties business culture: Sir Tim Bell, George Walker, Gerald Ronson, Frank Warren, even poor Gerald Ratner. He used them to produce a string of City scoops, many of them dominating the front pages of other newspapers, let alone their business pages.

His favourites include Robert Maxwell's attempt to buy Tottenham Hotspur, followed up with Alan Sugar's appearance as Tottenham's saviour, and, oddly, since it was not a business story, the planned closure of London Zoo. Rightly, Randall is renowned as a news junkie: "I know for a fact he was physically depressed for a fortnight because The Sunday Telegraph scooped him on Murdoch buying Manchester United," says a friend.

He started in journalism on a postgraduate course at the University of Florida where he was advised to specialise to get on, and, with a degree in economics, decided to stick to business journalism.

His first job was on a magazine covering the arcane world of airline financing. After a stint on the Financial Weekly he made it to The Sunday Telegraph as a City correspondent. In 1988 he became assistant city editor of The Sunday Times. He worked his way to managing editor of business news, which came with a seat at the News International monthly board meeting: "Where I got to watch the maestro, Rupert Murdoch," he says..

Having promised himself he would give up journalism at the age of 40, Randall left The Sunday Times for City PR firm, Financial Dynamics. Despite a pounds 200,000-plus package he was bored, and six months later took a pay cut to return to The Sunday Times. as assistant editor, and later sports editor, before the Barclay brothers and their editor-in-chief, Andrew Neil, offered him the editorship of Sunday Business.

"It was important to me that the Barclay brothers seemed to understand what was needed. History is littered with newspaper start-ups which were under-capitalised. They all accepted the most optimistic predictions of their distribution, future sales and revenues. There was never any money for rainy days - and rivals such as Murdoch can make sure that rain happens. The Barclay brothers had an understanding of what was needed - and they've got deep pockets."

Randall was unconcerned that there was no research showing enthusiasm for the paper. "There is no point researching a new market, because consumers say they are more conservative than they really are. Pre-launch research would have told Murdoch that people weren't willing to pay to watch sport and movies on television."

Now Randall has figures to prove his hunch that there are at least 80,000 business junkies in the country, and he uses them like the salesman he is: "The FT sells 160,000 in the UK, and we have a third of its market after 45 weeks - and the FT's been going 100 years. The Wall Street Journal has been operating in the UK for 15 years, and has just 13,000 UK readers. So I think we have proved there is a market. I am certainly more confident now than I was a year ago when I was recruiting people."

Randall's growing confidence should see some changes made to the paper. Staff report that at the beginning he was so desperate to dispel the paper's reputation for running poorly sourced stories that everything had to be "triple copper-bottomed with belt and braces". The paper was at first, he admits, deliberately boring, so that it could re-establish its credibility. The paper was given authority in part by its classy redesign at the hands of the Scotsman Group's in-house design team. Ally Palmer, design editor of The Scotsman, and John Belknap produced a clean and modern-looking title. Now Randall is promising rather more "attitude" and intends to deliver a paper where "the FT meets Loaded".

A year ago, such was Sunday Business's reputation that Tesco refused to stock it - until Randall phoned Terry Leahy, Tesco's chief executive, and got it on the shelves. On 27 December last year, when the financial markets and much of the country had been closed for four days, 45,000 people still went out and bought Sunday Business.

Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits