It’s been a vintage year for Spear’s with a host of great names in the magazine culminating in a glittering Wealth Management Awards and a bigger-than-ever Spear’s 500, writes Alec Marsh, the editor of Spear’s
What a year it’s been. At Spear’s, at least, 2019 will go down as an absolute zinger. If Spear’s were burgundy it would have been a 2005 or 2002; on the Bond scale it’s tipped the full Connery.
We began in our January/February edition by asking who was coming for London’s crown, as the world’s leading international financial centre? With Frankfurt, Dublin, Paris and the US reimagined by our cover artist Adam Dant as the four horsewomen of the financial apocalypse riding over the landscape of the City, we sought to find out, asking Jim O’Neill and Gina Miller among others. The consensus view that emerged in The Siege of London was that the winners from a bad Brexit that left London outside of the EU wouldn’t be on the Continent. Stephanie Flanders, over at Bloomberg, summed it up best: ‘Europe as a whole will lose, and the big winner is likely to be New York.’
That edition we also met Yanis Varoufakis, the charismatic economist and former Greek finance minister. Varoufakis gave Spear’s an insight into Brussels-handling: ‘Theresa May is mad to be conducting negotiations with Mr Barnier and Juncker,’ he told us. ‘These people don’t have a mandate to negotiate. Send Mr Barnier home and file an application for a five-year EEA agreement to begin at the end of the two-year post-Article 50 period.’ Temporary adoption of the Norway model would give the Parliament time to mull future arrangements and Merkel a chance ‘to breathe a sign of relief’. A year on many might wish his advice was followed.
In issue 60 we also drew on the expertise of the 2018 Reputation Managers Index to ask: How does Donald Trump do it? The answer was a star of the edition. In Midas we had F1 racing great Sir Jackie Stewart: what does he drive, we asked? ‘I’m not really a car man,’ Stewart told Spear’s. ‘I’ve never had a fancy car. I’ve had a driver for 43 years.’
Our March/April edition stormed out to the newsstands with a iconic, Deconstructivist cover inspired by the lead story: How Putin spooked the London property, written by my deputy Christopher Jackson. Months before the introduction of Unexplained Wealth Orders or the more sceptical government stance on Tier 1 ‘gold plated’ investor visas, the Spear’s story – drawn in part from conversations emerging from our work on the 2018 Property Advisers Index – showed how actions inside the Putin regime was helping to cool Russian buying appetite in London. Mathieu Boulègue, from Chatham House, told us: ‘Russians are now returning to the motherland because the president has called for them to reinvest wealth into the domestic system.’
That edition also contained my interview with Clarissa Eden, the Countess of Avon, the niece of Winston Churchill and widow of the postwar prime minister, Sir Anthony Eden. Talking Churchill, Suez and Brexit, Lady Avon, then 97, gave Spear’s an insight into her famous uncle and life inside Downing Street and Chartwell, the Churchills’ home in Kent, during the war. All these years on, how does she remember WSC? ‘He was exceptional, certainly,’ she stated, adding a frank chuckle. ‘I think I realised he was very great in spite of the fact that everyone kept telling one that he was.’ As well as Eden, we had the poetry of Wendy Cope, and William Cash travelled the country meeting entrepreneurial owners of estates in A new dawn for the country house, and Rasika Sittamparam gave us the scoop on the new cyber threat in Game of Drones. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Spear’s took the train from Euston for the cover story for the May/June edition: the Rebirth of the North – how a region got its mojo back focused on the economic resurgence of Manchester and the North West in particular, with a cover inspired by Lowry. Special guests in that article included the economist Jim O’Neill and the Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry. ‘I would passionately argue [that] dealing with the inter-regional and intergenerational productivity problems [is] way more important than Brexit,’ O’Neill told me. ‘Way more important.’ Spear’s had the pleasure of taking Henry Blofeld, the golden voice of cricket out in the Liquid Lunch interview, there was the hotly-contested 2018 Family Law Index and we had an exclusive tour of the National Gallery with Gabriele Finaldi in The National’s Treasurer.
We then went on a decidedly financial bent with our next two cover stories: our July/August edition took readers for a journey into the world of digital wealth and blockchain with the Crypto Revolution: Christopher Jackson spoke to crypto evangelists and experts on both sides of the Atlantic in the authoritative report. Then in September/October, Spear’s junior staff writer Emelia Hamilton-Russell undertook her first cover story: The New Capitalism – on how sustainability is changing the way investment decisions are made by HNWs. Did you know that some $23 trillion of international wealth is invested sustainably? Our writer followed the money…
Nigel Lawson was our lead interview in July/August; he looked back at his 1988 budget which laid the foundations of much of the present tax systems – as well as contemplated what changes were needed now. Asked about soaring C-suite pay, Lawson declared: ‘These people are grossly overpaid.’ But then added with a smile: ‘The difficulty is not that you can’t see a problem. The difficulty is that the cure might be worse than the disease.’ Surprisingly he was also critical of globalisation, noting that ‘it much easier for people to avoid paying tax, or avoid paying much tax.’ In that issue, Christopher Jackson headed to New York for a review of the $800 million Rockefeller auction in Sale of the century. Yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur was our diary – talking about the need for a circular economy, and in Midas Kelly Hoppen confided that her guilty pleasure was ‘Gluten-free vodka’. Will wonders cease? That edition also saw the first outing of Jason Cowley as Spear’s new sports columnist, writing on the Geopolitics of the World Cup. Finally, in our authoritative 2018 Wealth Managers Index, we had changes at the top – the UHNW index top ten welcomed Aastha Gurbax of JP Morgan and Nick Hornby of Cerno Capital for the first time. Hornby was later to collect the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Spear’s Wealth Management Awards in November.
Clive James exclusive
But there was even better to come: the September/October edition, arguably the best of 2018, was graced by a very special interview with Clive James, who conducted a wonderful email exchange with Christopher Jackson. In Dancing in the End Zone, James talked Brexit, his career, his poetry, Dante and more. Asked to describe Donald Trump, James gives us this: ‘I’m still working on it, but I have to admit that the reality has a way of staying ahead of any description.’ Issue 64 was also privileged to have the pen of Sir Andrew Motion, the former Poet Laureate, in our diary slot and offering succour to Remainers voters with a pessimistic yet elegantly written assessment of the impact of Brexit on Britain. The ‘star’ interview meanwhile, was with the private equity pioneer Guy Hands, whom I met at Mansfield College, Oxford in the company of Kofi Anan and Lord Patten. Hands told us about what motivated his philanthropy work – as well as his approach to business. ‘I’ve had my ups and downs,’ Hands told Spear’s gamely. For a man who lost £1.7 billion, that’s one way of putting it. Spear’s was honoured that he attended the Spear’s Wealth Management Awards in November at the Dorchester and gave a speech.That issue also featured an interview with the bookseller James Daunt – the man who saved the high street bookshop – and the campaigner Gina Miller was in our Liquid Lunch slot. John Arlidge, meanwhile, took the new electric Jaguar I-Pace for a spin, describing it as ‘the first credible electric car that you might want to buy’. Spear’s staff writer Olenka Hamilton spoke to the style guru Trinny Woodall for Midas. What does it meant to be stylish? ‘It means you don’t follow fashion,’ stated Trinny, ‘but whatever you wear suits you impeccably; everything flows, nothing jars.’ Among the other highlights was the essay on Adam Smith which included a conversation with Jesse Norman, the perceptive Conservative MP and author of a book on the father of economics: The price of freedom tells you why the sage of Kirkcaldy should be on every politicians’ reading list. As I said, along with the Spear’s 2018 Tax Advisors Index, it was a packed issue.
The end-of-year edition also featured an array of glittering names: the star interview subject was the entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sir Lloyd Dorfman, who discussed his journey in giving and said that the rich aren’t giving enough to good causes. We also heard from the Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross, whom William Cash, our editor-at-large interviewed extensively about his philanthropic work. And Spear’s new recruit David Dawkins went to meet the wealth manager Ross Elder, who walked away with the HNW asset manager of the year award at the Spear’s Wealth Management Awards.
The cover story meanwhile focused on an altogether different matter, the Greenback and future of the US dollar as global reserve currency. In The End of the Dollar? Spear’s asked the experts, including Yanis Varoufakis: not as long as you might think was the resounding answer. With Brexit fast approaching, we also had a postcard from Oslo to see how the Norway model works up close and we were delighted to have tennis great Andre Agassi in the Liquid Lunch slot. Other highlights included our interviews with Maggi Hambling and Crown Prince Nicholas II of Montenegro. Then we had the comedienne Jo Brand in Midas – she was funny, as you’d expect, as well as quietly profound. What’s she most proud of, we asked? ‘Being an old, fat woman who is still on telly.’ In addition, we had Stanley Johnson who travelled to Howe Island in the South Pacific, Kate Adie in the diary and the 2018 Alternative Assets Index, in association with Borro Private Finance brought readers the best names in art, wine and cars.
Which brings us to the end of the year – a year which also included the best ever iteration of the Spear’s Wealth Insight Forum, which covered tax, migration and investment, fintech, and addressed the future of wealth. We also had the 2018 Spear’s Wealth Management Awards, with 17 winners across the full breadth of the private client services for HNWs and UHNWs.
What a year. To subscribers old and new, to our interviewees and loyal writers and columnists, thank you all for joining us for the ride in 2018. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Alec Marsh is editor at Spear’s