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December 20, 2019updated 08 Jan 2020 3:46pm

The year in Spear’s – highlights of 2019

By Arun Kakar

It’s been a vintage year for Spear’s, with four packed editions of the magazine and two marquee events, writes Arun Kakar


Climate change has arguably been the dominant global theme of 2019, from Extinction Rebellion protests in world capitals to a raised awareness among politicians. But what can HNWs do about it? Spear’s editor Alec Marsh took up the question in his prescient January cover story ‘Money to Burn, which looks at the risks – and indeed opportunities – presented at this most crucial of moments.

This edition was fully loaded with literary luminaries: the diary was by Alexander McCall Smith, and for the star interview, Spear’s met William Boyd.

Taking our cue from Boyd, in ‘A good man in Africa’, William Cash reports on the great work done by Esmond Bradley Martin, to save rhinos from poaching and extinction before his tragic murder.

We also heard from the social entrepreneur, model, writer and actress, Lily Cole, as well and Niall Ferguson was in our Midas slot. Another undoubted star of this edition was Cherie Blair, who spoke about her foundation for women. For our liquid lunch, Rasika Sittamparam spoke with Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, and William Sitwell has an enlightening encounter with Marco Pierre White.

Martin Rees


Another pertinent theme of the year has been the legalisation of cannabis across the West. For the cover story of our March edition, Edwin Smith investigated the potential that it opens to investors, businesses and governments.

His party might not have won a seat in the election, but few have played a larger role in our current political moment than Nigel Farage. Alec Marsh enjoyed the company of Britain’s most divisive politician in this revealing Spear’s interview.

Bart van Es, winner of this year’s Costa Prize for The Cut-Out Girl, featured in our liquid lunch slot, while Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, shared his thoughts for our diary slot in a typically eloquent and thought-provoking entry.

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Nigel Farage

Also in this issue, the British designer extraordinaire Thomas Heatherwick was profiled amid the opening of the spectacular Coal Drops Yard in Kings Cross. Emelia Hamilton-Russell met philanthropist Toyin Saraki, while Ed Targett went to Seoul  and drew some lessons for post-Brexit Britain.

Philanthropy was put under the microscope too, and Alan Johnson was in the Midas slot.


Labour may be further away from power after the election, but the new left is not going away anytime soon. For our cover story, the ‘War on Wealth’, we investigated the new arguments being made by the left and heard from the private client world about what they and their HNW customers are saying and doing about it.

We also heard from the first female president of Ireland, Mary Robinson: the new chair of the Elders, an international body of former world leaders set up by Nelson Mandela whose task it is to help fix otherwise intractable global problems. Robinson offered  her insight into the challenges facing the world – from climate change to Donald Trump, and nuclear Armageddon. Hers is one of the most important interviews conducted in the history of Spear’s and it remains essential reading.

Mary Robinson

In more cheerful news, we headed to the mountain Kingdom of Bhutan, to find the secret to happiness. And we also met the bullish billionaire Tej Kohli. The issue includes conversations with people as diverse as the actor-director Steven Berkoff, the buccaneering family lawyer Ayesha Vardag, the Made in Chelsea star and entrepreneur Oliver Proudlock, one of Britain’s greatest living painters Rose Wylie, the fashion rising star Alice Archer, and the novelist Elizabeth Day.


The July edition of Spear’s arrived with a giant vampire squid on its cover, celebrating Goldman Sachs and its 150th birthday. It’s a good-natured tribute to the cover story, which draws upon the wisdom of Jim O’Neill and Guy Hands, among other Goldman alumni, to investigate what’s made the bank so successful and totemic on the global stage.

We also spoke to the other big winner of the Tory leadership race, Rory Stewart. His social-media-led campaign was a phenomenon in an otherwise run-of-the-mill sequence of launches. It fits with his outlook too – he famously walked 6,000 miles across Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nepal, and previously told me that he put store in a Nigerian proverb that ‘you listen with your feet’. Now, as he gears up for his London Mayoral campaign, his thoughts on Britain’s place in the world post-Brexit remain compelling.

Jonathan Agnew

In a banner year for cricket, Jonathan Agnew took our liquid lunch slot (and accurately predicted England’s world cup victory), while our Midas interview was with the V&A’s Tristram Hunt. Linda Yueh spoke about the work of the commonwealth foundation in our philanthropy slot, and Jo Whiley talked about Glastonbury and gardening for our diary.

Other highlights included a report from Singapore: ‘Crazy, really rich Asians’, and Toby Mott, the man on a mission to keep punk alive. We also took a look at the whirring industry activity in space – you could call it a frontier economy.


For our September edition, we decided to write off an entire continent for our cover story. The Death of Europe’ began in earnest with a conversation with Christophe Donay at Pictet, but soon fanned out, with members of the Spear’s team dispatched to various capitals and corners of Europe to test his thesis.

The truth is that many of the challenges that face Europe face Britain too – the purpose of the cover story is not to crow, but rather to ask important questions about where investors should be putting their money.

There was also a profoundly insightful conversation with Francis Fukuyama, the historian who called time on history in 1989, and has come back to try to work it all out for us again. His diagnosis of the crisis of liberalism, Putin, Trump and Brexit makes for essential reading.

Ann Widdecombe

Spear’s also joined Ann Widdecombe in Exeter for lunch and conversation on populism and the rise of the right. This edition also featured by interviews with the novelist Robert Harris in our diary, with the architecture taste-maker Kevin McCloud, who was our Midas, and performance artist Amanda Palmer. And is the all-rounder back? We investigated the new argument against specialism.


This November/December edition – still available on newsstands – offers a cornucopia of riches. First, we have a conversation with Salman Rushdie, one of the world’s greatest living authors. We also meet Stephen Schwarzman, the co-founder of Blackstone and one of the world’s richest people. Find out what keeps a man with $18 billion awake at night.

Our intrepid editor-at-large William Cash goes for a mind-expanding and waist-shrinking hike along the West Highland Way. And we visit to 5 Hertford Street, where our deputy editor Edwin Smith ­finds out what has made this, quite plausibly, the most important private members’ club in the world today. Broadcaster Iain Dale takes our liquid lunch slot too, after a year in which he hosted two-thirds of the hustings in the Tory leadership contest.

Lady Lucan

And it’s all rounded off by our inaugural luxury index, published in association with Boadicea the Victorious, which pro­files the elite cadre of individuals making waves across luxury goods and services – from horologists to hoteliers and hatters.

And finally…

Travelex founder Sir Lloyd Dorfman, anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller and Spear’s contributor Robert Amsterdam were among the high profile guests at the Spear’s Wealth Insight Forum back in July.

Harbottle & Lewis’s John Kelly at the Spear’s Wealth Management Awards

And at the Spear’s Wealth Management Awards last month, we celebrated the cream of London’s private client world. More than 350 figures from business, finance, law and luxury gathered to celebrate achievement across the asset management, banking and private client fields at Skinners’ Hall in the heart of the City of London. Roger Weatherby and Richard Hadida were among the big winners on the night.

One last thing

To subscribers old and new, to our interviewees and loyal writers and columnists, thank you all for joining us for the ride in 2019. We couldn’t have done it without you. A merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

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