Padraic Fallon: Financial journalist who went on to head a billion-pound business
Wednesday 17 October 2012
Very few financial journalists successfully make the transition from writing about businessmen to becoming one. Padraic Fallon did so, brilliantly. He never forgot that while you can take the boy out of journalism, you can't take journalism out of the boy. Firstly as editor, and ultimately chairman and chief executive of Euromoney Institutional Investor, he also retained the title of editor-in-chief.
It was far more than a courtesy title. Throughout his career, he admired and practised good writing, producing the Euromoney style guide to reinforce his belief that even in the arcane reaches of the euromarkets, the prose should be clear, interesting and provocative. He once savaged a hapless journalist by pointing out that one could no more be absolutely unique than a little bit pregnant.
His restless sense of mischief and fun was fostered by his mentor, Sir Patrick Sergeant, for whom he worked in the City office of the Daily Mail. Sergeant had invented financial journalism as entertainment, and Padraic never forgot the lessons learned, even as he became the boss of a business with a market value of nearly £1 billion.
He was the sixth son of the poet Padraic Fallon. A typically mischievous suggestion for his bearing his father's name was that after five boys, his father had run out of names. After graduating in business studies from Trinity College, Dublin, he started at the Irish Times, where he learned the art of sub-editing. In 1969 he moved to London to work for Thomson Regional Newspapers, the Daily Mirror and then the Daily Mail.
Euromoney magazine had just been set up, with £6,000 of Associated Newspapers' money plus £200 from Sergeant and a small number of other Mail employees, and a stand-by credit of £6,000 at Hambros Bank. Padraic, then 27, applied to be editor. He was paid £2,000 a year, plus six per cent of the profits (if any). It rapidly became clear that "there was oil under our little patch of ground" as one of them put it. The oil turned into a cash gusher: the standby credit was never used, and aside from a small issue of shares (at a premium) after Euromoney plc went public in 1987, it was not until the takeover of Metal Bulletin in 2006 that any more permanent capital was needed.
Padraic's contract made him Associated Newspapers' highest-paid employee in the days when accounts merely had to state the numbers in each band of pay, with no names. The world assumed the employee was Sir David English, the Mail's editor.
From editor of a single monthly magazine, he became a director, in 1975 and chief executive and chairman in 1992, of an international publishing, events and electronic information group. in 1999 he joined the board of Euromoney's parent, Daily Mail & General Trust. The purchase of Institutional Investor in 1997 (with borrowed money) sealed the group's pre-eminence in its field by eliminating the competition, as Padraic readily acknowledged.
During times when conditions dictated that people had to be fired, he took the hard decisions, but Euromoney effectively ran what was served as one of the very few training schools for the next generation of financial journalists. Those who succeeded in a tough, poorly-paid environment could climb the ladder quickly.
His sympathy with aspiring journalists was matched by his generosity with his good fortune. He supported a school in Ghana, bankrolled an eye clinic in India, and made substantial donations to his alma mater in Dublin, becoming a director of its foundation in 2000. He joined the board of Allied Irish Bank in 1998, resigning in May 2007 because of his well-justified concern at the reckless lending policies of the Irish banks.
He took his off-work pursuits just as seriously as the day job, if with rather less success. His skiing was described as a terrifying mixture of bravery, brute force and ignorance, and his tennis-playing as "enthusiastic". When the Lawn Tennis Association threatened to sell Queens Club, a fabulously-valuable site in west London, for development, he encouraged the revolt from the members, and personally put up £60,000 to help save it.
He was a keen shot, and perhaps reflecting his childhood in County Wexford, he was hooked on fly-fishing. He owned a sliver of the Cork Blackwater and taught his ultimate boss, Jonathan Rothermere, to fish for salmon. When not attempting to catch them in Russia, Iceland and Scotland, he happily fished for trout on the River Kennet.
A member of the Garrick, he loved food, drink and gossip in equal measure. Lunch with Padraic was seldom short, and never dull. Reflecting his journalistic background, he could be splendidly indiscreet, always delivered with an impish grin and an overriding sense that life was too much fun to be taken seriously.
His childhood was also reflected in the first of three novels, Hymn of the Dawn, a romanticised version of a summer in an Ireland where it didn't rain. His second, The Circle of Archimedes, was an exploration of mathematics through a vision seen by a ghillie. The critics were mostly baffled. His third work was completed just weeks before he died.
He saw his brothers struck down with heart problems, and took great care to ensure his was closely monitored; he died of cancer. Only two of his siblings have outlived him. He leaves behind Gillian, his wife of 40 years, four children and four grandchildren.
Padraic Matthew Fallon, journalist, executive and author: born Ireland 21 September 1946; married 1972 Gillian Hellyer (one son, three daughters); died London 14 October 2012.
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