Tributes have been paid to Ian Richardson, a respected award-winning City Editor of the The Birmingham Post who has died aged 86.
He will be remembered as a highly knowledgeable financial journalist who wrote trenchantly and expertly on issues such as the ravaging of West Midland industry in the downturn of the early 1980s, former colleagues and figures from the business world said.
Ian, who lived in retirement in Dulwich, south London, was in charge of The Post’s City pages for more than 30 years. He joined the newspaper from Oxford University in 1946 and remained - with the exception of a short spell with the then Manchester Guardian until he retired in 1986. He was appointed City Editor in 1955.
He was at the peak of his career in the volatile years following Margaret Thatcher’s arrival at 10 Downing Street in 1979 and wrote extensively on the liberalisation of the stock market and financial services industry and the transformation of Britain from a largely industrial economy into one that relies principally on services for its livelihood.
In 1981 he became the first journalist to win a prestigious Wincott Award, named after the late Harold Wincott of the Financial Times, for a second time.
The following year he was named Heart of England Journalist of the Year for his campaigning coverage of the recession-hit West Midlands.
Following his retirement he was appointed to a Royal Commission on the Press.
Jack Reedy, editor of The Birmingham Post from 1974 to 1982, said: “I worked closely with Ian at what was a very difficult time for industry, and I had a huge admiration for a combination of things he had. He was a brilliant economist, having studied it at Oxford, and he was a very good news man too, and could bring those two aspects together.
“He was a delightful chap to work with, and was tremendously popular among his colleagues. He was a natural leader but in a very quiet and unassuming way, and he was one of those people who others would work themselves to the bone for, and enjoy it.”
Peter Saunders, editor of The Post from 1984 to 1989, said the fact that Ian won the Wincott Award more than once as a regional journalist made him special among city editors.
“Everyone had the most enormous respect for Ian,” Peter said. “He was knowledgeable, he wrote brilliantly, he was informative and people used to clamour to meet him on the occasions he came out of London.
“He had a sense of humour that endeared him to me. He was caustically witty, amusing and held trenchant views. He was a great guy.
“He was incredibly highly respected, not just in the Birmingham business community but throughout the country.”
Keith Gascoigne, who became the newspaper’s first Business Editor in 1963, said: “Ian was a lengendary figure whose workload was prodigious. Singlehandedly or with help, he would prove The Post City coverage which was the envy of national newspapers with enormous City staffs.
“He trained many people who went on to distinguished careers in financial journalism.”
Former business lawyer and a past regional chairman of the Institute of Directors John James said: “Ian Richardson was one of the finest financial journalists ever to work for The Birmingham Post. He had a great understanding of the business world and he wrote at a time when many of the top industrial companies had their head offices in the Midlands so he was listened to nationally as well as locally.
“He was never afraid to challenge but he was always fair and his reporting standards were of the highest."
Former Post Business Editor John Duckers said: “Ian was old school, a stickler for accuracy and hugely authoritative. He was very well respected across the business community, having an extensive knowledge of Midland companies and their directors.
“His regular pieces of prose analysing the UK and world economy were always highly detailed, deeply thoughtful and seriously challenging. You got the feeling he was far more in command of events than whoever was the incumbent chancellor.
“Ian’s picture bye-line glared out at you in truculent fashion threatening a withering response for anyone foolish enough to take issue with a single word.”
A funeral service will be held at 3.15 pm on January 2 at Honor Oak Crematorium, Cemetery Lodge, Brenchley Gardens, London SE23 3RD.
Nevill Boyd Maunsell succeeded Ian Richardson as City Editor. Here he pays tribute to his old colleague.
Ian Richardson was one of those very rare journalists, whose integrity, commitment and professional skill actually shaped the nature of the publication for which he worked and wielded influence far beyond its regional base.
Quite early in his tenure as City Editor he established The Birmingham Post as the indispensable journal of record of West Midlands industry and business, while at the same time providing an authoritative, but highly personal commentary on national and international events.
At a time when most financial journalism was ponderous, Ian did this with a light touch and a gift for well aimed exaggeration. He was a combative journalist, who took sides in takeover battles and boardroom disputes, often with a touch of humour, occasionally with his tongue in his cheek.
His ringside and shamelessly partisan account of a Birmingham takeover saga – Bristol Street’s bid for Griffiths Bentley – caught the eye of the judges of the sought-after Wincott Prize for financial journalism in 1974. He became the first winner of the award for a journalist working for a regional paper.
That year he was also appointed to the Royal Commission on the Press charged with examining the state of what was then a heavily unionised newspaper industry.
Ian’s own politics came from the libertarian left, laced with an instinct to be against the government of the day. In the 19th century he might have been a Birmingham Radical.
He detested over-mighty trade unions whose closed shops in Fleet Street were threatening the viability of much of the newspaper industry and the personal freedom of journalists and printers who did not belong to them.
His staunch membership of the Institute of Journalists effectively barred him from work on several national titles – to the great benefit of The Post. In all his years with this newspaper, I believe he only once considered the offer of a job elsewhere.
That came after he was the joint winner of the national Wincott Prize in 1981. This was recognition of Ian’s long, heartfelt, often vitriolic campaign against the industrial policies of Margaret Thatcher and, above all, Sir Keith Joseph, through the early 1980s. This destroyed much of Britain’s traditional industry and left an industrial desert stretching from Birmingham to Wolverhampton.
Early on, Ian recognised the consequences of aggressive free market policies in a deep recession made worse by an over-priced pound, and lambasted them accordingly.
For all his trenchant writing, Ian was an instinctively modest man who wore his distinction lightly. Yet, more than one past editor of The Post may recall, he could be fierce in defence of the City Office and its role in the paper.
Unlike many journalists, he was an accomplished and witty public speaker, much in demand at events in Birmingham.
He spoke at the memorial service for his former deputy Margaret Reid, who had gone on to chronicle the fringe banking crisis at The Financial Times and write a book about it. It was attended by several former fringe bankers as well as an array of Treasury officials, City grandees and politicians.
Ian eyed them and began: “There could be no greater tribute to Margaret than this gathering of the great and the good, and a number who would not expect to be described as either.”
He was a superb boss and a great teacher, demanding in that he worked, harder, longer - and better - than the rest of us. His standards of accuracy, thoroughness and respect for the English language were unrelenting.
Yet he was unfailingly considerate and good humoured in the face of his staff’s foibles and follies.
I worked for him for 20 years. It was a privilege and a delight.