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Alex Brummer: A City Editor’s history of the Daily Mail City pages

Alex Brummer: A City Editor’s history of the Daily Mail City pages
Alex Brummer: A City Editor’s history of the Daily Mail City pages


During the autumn of 1999, I took a phone call from an emissary of Paul Dacre, the commanding editor of the Daily Mail. 

Robin Esser, in the 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 had been the Daily Mail’s astringent City Editor, would be retiring from full-time duty in May 2000 and would I be interested in the job?

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

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

For the previous decade, I had been the Financial Editor of the Guardian and in political terms would be making the longest journey in journalism, from left to right. I also understood that if I were to land the post, I would be stepping into the footsteps of giants.

On most papers, city and business editors come and go but at the Mail it is a vocation.

My most famous predecessor, Sir Patrick Sergeant, who is now aged ’97 not out’, said this weekend: ‘Soon after I became City Editor in 1960, Lord Rothermere [Esmond Harmsworth] asked me if I was happy there.

‘I said, ‘Very happy, thank you, sir.’ He replied, ‘Good, because you will find that City Editors go on for a long time here, whereas managers come and go.’ I was City Editor for 24 years and my predecessor for 25 years.’

Enduring legacy: Sir Patrick Sergeant reinvented financial journalism during his 24 years as City Editor

Enduring legacy: Sir Patrick Sergeant reinvented financial journalism during his 24 years as City Editor

As a neophyte financial journalist in the early 1970s, Sergeant’s commentaries on the Mail City pages were my first port of call.

Not only had he reinvented financial journalism, so that it appealed to the ordinary reader not just the City’s money men, but he could single-handedly move a share price or markets.

He had the ear of the nation’s bosses, successive governors of the Bank of England and Number 11.

One of his enduring legacies was the paper’s personal finance section, Money Mail, the first on any national newspaper. 

He put a team together which focused on the everyday issues confronting readers: best buys in savings, mortgages, insurance and much more.

The section’s editor Margaret Stone was famed for her sage advice and ‘ask Margaret’ letters still arrive in the City Office today, now ably answered by her immediate successor Tony Hazell in his Ask Tony column.

The memory of Sergeant’s glorious reign and the ability of his successor Andrew Alexander to rally the troops around the flag of Thatcherite laissez-faire economics was legendary.

Alexander was a Eurosceptic long before Brexit came over the horizon. Among his great scoops was the revelation in 1989 that Lord Hanson had acquired a strategic stake in Britain’s biggest industrial group ICI.

It set off a train of events which saw ICI’s pharmaceutical arm Astrazeneca split off as a separate company leading, in the age of Covid, to the people’s vaccine.

Helping hand: Renowned Money Mail editor Margaret Stone was famed for her sage advice

Helping hand: Renowned Money Mail editor Margaret Stone was famed for her sage advice

Charles Duguid, whose time as City Editor began in 1906, is another who deserves to be well-remembered. 

Duguid’s status stemmed from his authorship of How To Read The Money Article, a best-seller which helped to popularise investment by private citizens.

On the eve of the First World War, the London Stock Exchange (LSE) was closed amid a deep recession, chaos on the markets and a debacle over the issue of the War Loan.

Amid great disgruntlement among the 5,000 members of the London Stock Exchange, Duguid stepped into the breach. 

On August 1, 1914, he took out half page advertisements in the Financial Times and Financial News announcing that with the LSE shut, ‘sellers who desire money for securities they hold, and buyers who desire securities at the present low prices’ could buy and sell shares on the Daily Mail Exchange for two shillings and six pence for each deal.

The Daily Mail Exchange was hugely busy until August 1915. Trading was eventually suspended ‘owing to war conditions now prevailing, the stagnation in the stock and share dealing and the pressure of war news on our space.’ 

For a year, the Daily Mail Exchange was the primary venue for share dealing in Great Britain! 

The timing was particularly important because of the economic disruption in the period leading up to the war.

Former governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King says this was the greatest British financial crisis until it was surpassed by the banking meltdown of 2007-09 nearly a century later.

The golden legacy of the Mail’s City, economic and personal finance coverage lives on.

I and my colleague, Business Editor Ruth Sunderland, along with Victoria Bischoff and her Money Mail reporters, all write for you, the reader.

We care about you, the private investor, whether you chose to directly dive into the stock market or save through an Isa, trust or a pension fund.

But we also care about the future of Britain. That is why over the last two decades we have campaigned against financially driven overseas takeovers with some remarkable successes.

If it were not for us taking sides, our biggest defence company BAE might have ended up as part of Airbus, Astrazeneca an offshoot of Pfizer and Unilever swallowed by Kraft Heinz or hiding away in Rotterdam.

The City pages are strident believers in the magic of the markets, free enterprise, wealth creation and aspiration.

But we also believe in fairness, less greed and a better deal for women and minorities in the nation’s boardrooms and business more broadly.

We have learned from our illustrious forebears. Hopefully, future generations of City reporters, whether on the printed page, in the broadcast studios and online, can learn something from us.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.



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Manhunt under way after female police officer, 21, injured as thieves ram car

Manhunt under way after female police officer, 21, injured as thieves ram car
Manhunt under way after female police officer, 21, injured as thieves ram car


A 21-year-old female police officer is in hospital after raiders smashed into her patrol car after breaking into units at a business park.

The new recruit has suffered cuts to her arms as a result of the broken glass and also injured her back.

A manhunt is now underway to find the suspects and an abandoned car has already been found.

Police say they were called earlier this evening to reports of people breaking into units at Bluebell Business Park in the Atherton area of Wigan, Greater Manchester.

A GMP spokesman said when officers arrived in a patrol car they found the gates to the site closed so parked their car outside the gates.

The two officers then got out of their vehicle but saw a vehicle coming towards the gates, reports the Manchester Evening News.



Police said attempts to trace the culprits following the incident at Bluebell Business Park in Atherton were underway
Police said attempts to trace the culprits following the incident at Bluebell Business Park in Atherton were underway

One officer jumped back in the vehicle but it was at this point that the car, a blue coloured Kia, smashed into the gates and then the patrol car before making off.

The impact caused the passenger window of the police car to shatter leaving the officer who had jumped back into the vehicle injured.



CSI officers arrive on the scene
CSI officers arrive on the scene

The offending car was found abandoned nearby shortly afterwards with the GMP spokesman saying the culprits had ‘made good their escape.’

The vehicle has now been recovered for forensic analysis.

Tools were found in the car but no stolen goods. It is believed at this stage they tried to break into a number of units but nothing was stolen.



The thieves made their getaway
The thieves made their getaway

An investigation is now underway with detectives trying to trace those responsible.

Forensic crime scene investigation officers (CSI) were among those present at the scene this evening.

The officer, who is said to have only recently joined the force, has gone to hospital this evening to be checked over.

Police are asking witnesses or anyone with information to call them on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.





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Big guns back GlaxoSmithKline in war with activist Elliott

Big guns back GlaxoSmithKline in war with activist Elliott
Big guns back GlaxoSmithKline in war with activist Elliott


Big guns back GlaxoSmithKline in war with US raider: BlackRock among top investors lining up to defend drugs giant in showdown with activist Elliott

  • BlackRock plus fifth largest shareholder Dodge & Cox, along with Royal London, have contacted Glaxo’s chairman to pledge support  
  • Speculation is rife that Elliott is set to push for a dramatic new plan that could see the FTSE100 firm sold off in parts or swallowed up by a foreign rival 
  • It has even been suggested that a bitter battle could lead to the end of the Glaxo name 

Three major investors have backed GlaxoSmithKline’s board amid fears that a US hedge fund is plotting to force through an audacious shake-up of the drugs giant. 

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that BlackRock – GSK’s biggest investor and the world’s largest asset manager – plus its fifth largest shareholder Dodge & Cox, along with Royal London, have all contacted the pharmaceutical firm’s chairman to pledge support ahead of a battle with Elliott Management. 

Speculation is rife that activist Elliott is set to push for a dramatic new plan that could see the FTSE100 firm sold off in parts or swallowed up by a foreign rival. It has even been suggested that a bitter battle could lead to the end of the Glaxo name.

Plot: It has even been suggested that a bitter battle could lead to the end of the Glaxo name

Plot: It has even been suggested that a bitter battle could lead to the end of the Glaxo name

City sources said shareholders in the £69billion company had urged chairman Sir Jonathan Symonds to stick to the strategy of overhauling its drugs pipeline and splitting the group in two next year. The backing of the trio of investors – particularly BlackRock, which has a gigantic £4billion stake – is a huge boost for GSK’s under-fire management. 

Chief executive Emma Walmsley’s master plan for splitting the company involves spinning off GSK’s consumer healthcare arm, which was formed in a £10billion joint venture with US giant Pfizer. It would then be floated as a separate company. 

After demerging the consumer division – with brands including Sensodyne toothpaste and Panadol paracetamol – GSK would be left as purely a pharmaceuticals and vaccines business. 

Elliott has been keeping quiet about its intentions at GSK since emerging last month as a new multibillion-pound shareholder. But several well-placed bankers and investors told The Mail on Sunday they thought the activist would push for more than simply accelerating Walmsley’s demerger plan. Walmsley has faced criticism for moving too slowly.

 Elliott, founded by Wall Street billionaire Paul Singer, has a reputation for sparking major strategic overhauls after waging successful campaigns against other corporates including yogurt giant Danone, drinks maker SABMiller and hospitality firm Whitbread. 

One top ten investor said: ‘Elliott is in it for a fast buck. That’s its modus operandi. It’s in it for shareholder returns as fast as it can get. Splitting in two more quickly isn’t going to make a difference. If you shake up management, again that will cause a hiatus. 

‘It’s plausible it could be looking to break the company up even more, or get it to merge with another company.’ But the source added: ‘Would the UK Government allow Glaxo to be sold to a foreign company? That’s very unlikely.’ 

A rival activist fund manager said: ‘Elliott has probably got a buyer to do a merger for the pharma business in the States. There will be synergies. It’ll be a mega-cap.’ Another large investor said Elliott was unlikely to want a merger with AstraZeneca, adding: ‘I can’t see the boards being willing to throw in the towel.’ 

Samuel Johar, chairman of executive search firm Buchanan Harvey, said: ‘GSK has been poorly managed for at least 15 years. Therefore, it is not a surprise that an activist like Elliott has arrived at the scene. 

‘I think it is the end of GSK and a great British icon. It is highly likely that it will be broken up and sold. It would be very tragic for the UK.’ 

Senior sources with knowledge of Elliott’s approach played down the idea that it would push for a piecemeal sale or break-up. But they questioned whether speeding up the demerger was ‘technically possible’. 

Walmsley is due to present her long-term outlook to investors on June 23. As head of the world’s largest vaccine maker, she has been criticised for failing to develop a Covid-19 vaccine and instead assisting France’s Sanofi on a jab which has not yet come to market. 

A senior City source said: ‘Glaxo’s plan is all about improving the commercial side, beefing up the drugs pipeline and breaking off the consumer business. They must not get distracted.’ 

Walmsley has been criticised for saying: ‘I’m not a scientist, I’m a business leader.’ But Symonds later defended her. 

Sir Philip Hampton, the former GSK chairman who hired Walmsley, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘She’s strategically strong, but the company is doing a surprising number of challenging deals. That isn’t her main background.’ 

GSK’s shares have fallen 19 per cent since Walmsley took charge in 2017. 

A GSK spokesman said: ‘Our shareholders are keen for us to deliver and we are making good progress.’ 

Elliott, BlackRock, Dodge & Cox and Royal London declined to comment.



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Record breaker rides Alton Towers Nemesis rollercoaster 64 times in six hours

Record breaker rides Alton Towers Nemesis rollercoaster 64 times in six hours
Record breaker rides Alton Towers Nemesis rollercoaster 64 times in six hours


A record-breaking daredevil has braved the terrifying Nemesis rollercoaster 64 times in six hours – despite suffering from vertigo.

Thrill-seeker l Shawn Sanbrooke has broken the world record for rollercoaster riding after taming the Alton Towers ride which has 3.5 G-force.

And the previous record was set by none other than Shawn himself. The 29-year-old managed to complete 63 laps of the 32m high ride in Stoke-on-Trent in 2019.

Shawn knew he could beat his own crazy record and the intrepid Staffordshire vlogger took advantage of the park being quiet when it reopened, according to the Stoke Sentinel.

He managed to complete 64 laps this time, in just six hours, but admitted he felt like he’d been on ‘a very heavy night out’ when he returned home. What’s even more remarkable is that Shawn actually suffers from vertigo – an inner ear problem which causes extreme dizziness.



Daredevil braved the nemesis despite his vertigo
Daredevil braved the nemesis despite his vertigo

He said: “It’s arguably one of the most intense rides in the country now. It’s no easy feat. It’s strange, I actually have a medical condition that stops me from driving. I have dizziness, I have vertigo.

“Everyone always thinks that I’m nuts for going on rollercoasters, but it doesn’t make those symptoms any worse.



The Nemesis is not for the faint hearted
The Nemesis is not for the faint hearted

“When people come off rollercoasters and say they’ve got a headache or they feel a bit dizzy, I already feel that way. I don’t know if that helps.

“As soon as I got home and lay in bed I felt as though I’d been on a very heavy night out. I was spinning, I was dizzy, but I managed to beat the record.”

Shawn has a season pass for Alton Towers, which has ten main rollercoasters including the Nemesis, an inverted coaster that has a drop speed of 50mph. Riders experience approximately 3.5 times the force of gravity on the one-minute, 20-second ride.



Shawn is a big fan of Alton Towers
Shawn is a big fan of Alton Towers

“It was torrential rain. I was the only person not wearing a poncho because if I left the queue to go and buy a poncho then I would have wasted laps. I didn’t have any food, I didn’t stop for any dinner, didn’t stop for any toilet breaks.

“I was on Nemesis, coming out walking back around, and going back on from 10am until 4pm when the park closed.”





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Rolls-Royce in talks with Boeing for a ‘clean sheet’ jetliner

Rolls-Royce in talks with Boeing for a ‘clean sheet’ jetliner
Rolls-Royce in talks with Boeing for a ‘clean sheet’ jetliner


Beoing’s new 797 mid-sized jetliner could be powered by advanced Rolls-Royce UltraFan engines, according to statements made by the British engineering giant’s CEO, Warren East, at the company’s annual meeting.

Working on the project would give Rolls an edge as it battles to survive the Covid crisis. It currently only supplies engines for large aircraft.

Rapid advances in technology mean that smaller planes can increasingly fly long-haul routes, meaning jumbo planes will be needed far less in the coming years.

During Rolls-Royce’s annual meeting, East was quoted to have said:

“It is fairly well documented that Boeing is exploring the opportunity for a new aircraft…like the other engine manufacturers, I am sure, we are in dialog with Boeing about that.”



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Leading conservatives Raisi and Larijani enter Iran presidential race

Leading conservatives Raisi and Larijani enter Iran presidential race
Leading conservatives Raisi and Larijani enter Iran presidential race


“I have come as an independent to the stage to make changes in the executive management of the country and to fight poverty, corruption, humiliation and discrimination,” the 60-year-old Mr Raisi said in a statement on Saturday before registering his candidacy.

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Business booms at Hargreaves Lansdown amid Online trading frenzy

Business booms at Hargreaves Lansdown amid Online trading frenzy
Business booms at Hargreaves Lansdown amid Online trading frenzy


Online trading frenzy sees Hargreaves Lansdown win record levels of new business

Hargreaves Lansdown won record levels of new business over the first four months of the year as investors rushed to take advantage of the online trading frenzy.

The shares and funds platform saw 126,000 savers start using its services between January and April, taking its total customer numbers to 1.6m.

And they piled in £4.6billion into their accounts over that time to invest in the stock market.

Trading frenzy: Hargreaves saw 126,000 savers start using its services between January and April, taking its total customer numbers to 1.6m

Trading frenzy: Hargreaves saw 126,000 savers start using its services between January and April, taking its total customer numbers to 1.6m

But shares fell 4.6 per cent after the firm warned trading volumes had started to ease since lockdown restrictions were lifted.

Younger savers were especially drawn to Hargreaves early this year, with a 150 per cent increase in the number of customers logging into their online accounts, particularly via the mobile app. 

The firm said the average age of its clients was now 36, down from 37 last year and 45 in 2012.

Several trading and investment platforms have reported a boom in the number of young people starting to take an interest in the stock market, following the popularity of stocks such as Gamestop which were heavily hyped on social media.

And households have built up savings during the pandemic, thought to be worth around £200bn, as opportunities to spend have been squashed by successive lockdowns.

With interest rates at rock bottom, those accidental savers are now looking for places to invest. 

Wealth manager Brewin Dolphin also saw its assets under management rise by 10.5 per cent in the six months to March to £47.6billion, as chief executive Robin Beer said the firm had reached out ‘clients who have been able to accumulate higher levels of savings over the last year’.

The boom at Hargreaves lifted its revenues for the first four months of 2021 to £233.2million, from £190.2million the same time a year earlier. 

But the firm is still facing legal action over its promotion of Neil Woodford’s doomed Equity Income fund, which it backed right up until the fund’s suspension in 2019.

Hargreaves’ chief executive Chris Hill said trading was driven by the bizarre Gamestop phenomenon which emerged this year.

Gamestop, a little-known and relatively unsuccessful company in the US, saw its share price soar after young people on social media encouraged each other to pile in – purely to deal a blow to the hedge funds which were betting against it.

The anarchist attitude spread to some other stocks, and piqued the interest of savers who began buying the shares in the hope of making a quick profit.

Earlier this week, the City watchdog’s chief executive Nikhil Rathi cautioned that investors could lose their money on speculative trades such as crypto-currencies and Gamestop-style stocks.



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