My Biggest Mistake: Bob Beckman

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The Independent Online
Bob Beckman, 59, was raised in the United States, but has become a household name in Britain for his doom-laden predictions for the stock markets and house prices, and as a presenter of 'The Beckman Report' on LBC radio and TV-am. After obtaining an economics degree in his native New York City he has worked as a stockbroker, fund manager, financial journalist and lecturer. He has written seven books, including Powertiming, which has just been published. He now splits his time between London and Monte Carlo, and lists running a powerboat among his recreations.

SOME people are born stupid. Some achieve stupidity. Some have it thrust upon them. People who are prone to acts of stupidity make fools of themselves from time to time, and then there are the perfectionists, who make perfect fools of themselves. As a perfectionist in my work, I guess you could say I fall into that category. And my biggest mistake was to expect minor consequences from a little stupidity.

Twenty years ago, I made the gross error of writing an article in my publication, Investors Bulletin, criticising the work of a well-known City editor. Compounding this stupidity was the fact that the deputy editor of the newspaper I criticised was a highly literate and skilful journalist with a keen understanding of the popular mind, who was to become the most influential City writer in Britain.

I can't really remember the precise nature of my criticism. What I do remember is that a week later, a less than flattering article appeared about me in that newspaper - written by the deputy editor.

It came as a bit of a surprise and I telephoned him. 'Why the nasty article?' I asked. 'You rubbished my City editor,' was the curt reply.

I put down the phone knowing that I had written something that evoked the intense displeasure of my friend. No excuses. It was an asinine thing to do for someone who was trying to build a sound reputation in the City of London.

Over the 20 years since that nasty article appeared, I have become quite prominent in the field of finance. But that one small article formed the basis of a reputation that would permeate the far-reaching annals of British financial journalism.

Journalists who have never read my work, have never met me and have never spoken to me, have become self-styled experts on my work and personal life.

My comments have been taken out of context, then criticised for their out-of-context meaning as if I provided the meaning. I have become the financial analyst most men love to hate.

Sometimes I feel like the proverbial thousand-year-old man. I would have to be at least that old to have experienced a number of the things that newspapers claim.

But don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. The field of finance has given me an opulent lifestyle, shuttling between London, Paris, Monte Carlo and various enclaves on the French Riviera. I enjoy the finest of foods, wines, clothes, cars and boats, while being surrounded by beautiful women. I have the respect and - in many cases - the adoration of those whose savings I look after and who read my publications.

This year, my pounds 39m unit trust, the Beckman International Capital Accumulator Unit Trust, will be among the best performers. I am exceptionally proud of that. Of the eight books I've written, three have been bestsellers.

Of course, my business might have been twice the size it is, and I could have had twice as many clients, had I not written that article. Then again, if I had not committed that act of stupidity 20 years ago by criticising a City editor, the alternative might have been obscurity - and I don't think I would have liked that.

Nevertheless, a kind, objective, friendly word about Bob Beckman now and then would not go unappreciated. I still crave warmth and human understanding - in spite of my views on house prices.

(Photograph omitted)