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Reuters' accidental managers

Like many of us, I have fond memories of John Stephens - not least at a picnic lunch above the Sea of Galilee when John, entertaining my wife and I with tales of his life and merrily quaffing Israeli Yarden wine, slowly slid down the Mount of Beatitudes. (He was on a visit to Israel where I was country manager). But many years later, when Barry Simpson and I began to research the story behind Reuters' near crash landing for our book Breaking News, it became apparent that the former journalists like John who had risen to senior management positions had developed a culture which left the company short on long-term strategy. They were accidental managers who rode the wave, made a succession of not always good acquisitions, and kept the company over dependent on FX and exposed to Bloomberg’s unstoppable progress. John’s most significant attempt to help broaden the base - the Globex futures trading platform - was a failure. The Tuscan vineyard culture was great fun but perhaps it was a little over indulgent. It certainly didn’t save Reuters from having to sell the brand. ■