Sir Richard Lambert (FT editor 1991-2001)
On Tuesday 15 September 1992, Helmut Schlesinger, the head of the Bundesbank, had given an interview to Handelsblatt and the Wall Street Journal. The Bundesbank expected that the normal form would be followed, which meant the quotes would be sent back for checking (and probably doctoring) and then the story would be published several days later. But Dow Jones put out on the wire that night some truly incendiary quotes, which effectively meant the UK/ERM game was up [leading to sterling’s exit from the European Exchange Rate mechanism, the precursor to the euro]. We put them on the front page, which was all about the financial crisis.
The same evening Harriet and I went to dinner at the US Ambassador’s house in Regents Park. Chancellor Norman Lamont was there, looking grim. He kept going out of the room, presumably to take phone calls, “in a bid to suppress comments by Mr Schlesinger that implicitly suggested the pound would be devalued” as Thursday’s front page (see above) said.
Harriet was sitting next to Michael Green, then chief executive of Carlton. He told her that he had heard Lamont badmouthing the FT. So I approached Lamont, and asked whether he had a problem. He was very cross. He said the FT was being hugely irresponsible by putting a dubious story on its front page, which would have devastating consequences for our country: I would be responsible.
Michael Green had a phone in his car (!) so I went and spoke to the night desk. I then returned to the office. By then we’d checked the quotes. We decided to run the story on the front page adjacent to the markets story, making it clear what the source was and exactly what had been said.