I’m a fussy and impatient reader. Either the book fascinates and I read it voraciously or it fails to enthral and it’s quickly dropped.
This wasn’t the case with Lionel Barber’s tome, ‘The Powerful and The Dammed’.
For 15 years Barber was editor of the Financial Times (retired Jan 2020) and by his account turned the paper into a digital powerhouse with a global audience. (Though curiously for a business journalist there are only a few figures floated to support these allegations).
The book is written like a journal, episodes are chronological with short pithy sentences typically starting with Barber’s own reflection in italics, followed by a succinct account of an incident. The book dives straight into issues; all padding has been mercilessly deleted.
Want an insider’s perspective of Lehman, Brexit or meeting Obama or Putin? Fascinated how an old media brand turned digital? Barber tells all.
If one takes Barber at his word, he’s a pivotal influencer and ear for leading politicians, bankers, flamboyant business tycoons and oligarchs. Even Prince Andrew seeks his counsel.
I think Barber overstates his influence. My take is this due to the FT’s Rolodex network rather than Barber’s own insights.
If you wonder how the super powerful business folk swing, smooch and boogie then this ones a must-read.
(As an aside Barber tells a fascinating tale of how the Nikkei swooped at the last minute to buy the FT when German media group Axel Springer had been the pundit’s favourite. For those (including me) who think Japanese corporates can be slow to move, this is a wake-up)