Ben Hughes, global commercial director and deputy ceo, recalls a particularly piquant lunch in Paris when he had just taken over as advertising sales chief in France (photo taken in 1983 shows Ben checking positioning of the FT at a Paris newspaper kiosk)
It was around 1987 and Serge Dassault arrived at a lunch I had arranged with the then deputy ceo of the FT, Richard McClean, and Paul Betts, one of the FT’s three correspondents in Paris. He threw down a copy of the FT - which had just published an aviation survey with an article about Dassault, the family-controlled defence group - and demanded: ‘Qui a écrit cette merde? (Who wrote this crap?) ‘Et bien, c’est moi monsieur le président, (I did, mister chairman)’ said Paul. The rest of the lunch was a dialogue between Dassault and Paul, who by the end of the lunch had completely won over the industrialist. That day, Paul Betts (FT 1976-2012) adds, he (correctly) bet a case of good wine with Dassault’s right-hand man Charles Edelstenne that the Rafale fighter aircraft - the trigger for the French boss’s outburst - would not win a significant export order in the near term at least. Paul never collected the wine.