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
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…