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Obituary: Sumeet Desai

Sumeet Desai (photo), a Reuters correspondent from the early 1990s to 2011, has died at 52.

I first met Sumeet in the early 1990s when we would trot down to the Office for National Statistics in London to report the latest UK economic data, me for Reuters, he for an organisation called Market News, Michael Peacock writes.


We were a bit sniffy about Market News, though we were equally patronising to Bloomberg at the time and look how that turned out. But it was quickly apparent that Sumeet had something about him.


Others noticed too and he was soon hired by Reuters, where he covered UK economics and politics for the best part of two decades.


Small in stature but larger-than-life in all other respects, you would have to look long and hard - and ultimately in vain - to find anyone with a bad word to say about Sumeet.


He was immense fun, loved a gossip over a drink or a meal, was always quick to help colleagues and deployed his personality and easy charm to build a formidable array of contacts that put most of his colleagues in the shade.


He also commanded respect by really knowing his stuff.


While ostensibly economics correspondent, his ability to cultivate top-level sources saw him cover the full political arena when Gordon Brown was UK prime minister in the 2000s. Sumeet reported on the Brown government fairly but never fawningly through the financial crisis.


This tribute, posted on Twitter by Brown's former right-hand man Damian McBride, says it all: "Sumeet Desai spread joy and sunshine wherever he went. My mind has been swimming with memories of him all day, each one happier than the last." 


Sumeet left Reuters to lead government relations for the Royal Bank of Scotland, a hugely important role given the bank was then largely state-owned after a massive financial crisis bailout. For the last eight years, he worked for Brunswick, delivering sage advice to an array of clients. I know colleagues there have been rocked to the core.


He remained supremely well plugged in. When I worked at the Bank of England, access to policymakers was supposed to be rigidly controlled through the comms department but, now and then, I would see Sumeet swan in after a personal invite for coffee or lunch from one of the high-ups.


Sumeet contracted cancer a few years ago, fought it bravely and, we all thought, successfully. Sadly, it returned in recent weeks and claimed him all too quickly.


We are all poorer for his passing. ■