One day almost twenty years ago, I bounded out of The Economist’s modernistic “Plaza” in London’s St. James’s, skipped past a few of the street’s posh gentlemen’s clubs and ran into Green Park, where I let out a primal scream. Aged 27, I had just got a job offer from The Economist. A dream was coming true.
Since then The Economist has sent me from London to Hong Kong, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and Berlin. But wherever I was, I worked with more or less the same people. People who are quirky, humorous and unusually talented–in some cases genius. We have been a family of sorts, sometimes dysfunctional, usually functional, but always tight. It is no exaggeration to say that The Economist, where I spent half of the life I remember living, is part of my identity.
That’s why it was terrifying even to contemplate leaving The Economist when I was approached with an opportunity to do something risky, new and exciting. But it was also terrifying to say No and live with the regrets of “What if”. I’m exactly half-way between the start of my career and retirement. Lots to contemplate.
Helpfully, my wife and few other people reminded me that not too long ago I wrote a book about people who made just such life decisions (and who made them for the better as for the worse). In particular, they pointed me to chapter 8 (“The Prison of Success”) and chapter 10 (“The Threshold of Middle Age”) in Hannibal and Me.
And so, last week I returned to the Plaza in St. James’s–probably for the last time, because The Economist is moving out this summer after 52 years–to say goodbye. We rented a dungeon in a pub around the corner and got sentimental and boozy. The ale and humor flowed as it only does at The Economist. (At least the humor. By the way, I can now finally stop writing “humour”.)
Here is the little gift they sent me off with. An elephant. Surus, presumably, the one Hannibal rode. They didn’t specify whether I’m mounting it on the way to Cannae or Zama.
So here I go. Within a few weeks, I will become, still based in Berlin, editor-in-chief of Handelsblatt Global. It is the young and insurgent English-language edition in a much older and larger group of German publications, including Handelsblatt (roughly the German equivalent of the Wall Street Journal) and Wirtschaftswoche (the analogue of Business Week). I’m not sure exactly what awaits me, and that’s somewhat terrifying–and hugely exciting.
Goodbye Economist; hello Handelsblatt.