The Financial Times celebrated 125 years of newspapering last week with a tasteful fete befitting both the age and the stately demeanor of the British newspaper. May Day, which is known in other parts of the world as International Workers’ Day, seemed as good a day as any to toast a long-lasting, highly regarded newspaper devoted to financial news.
The first floor of The Academy Mansion felt appropriately dignified (a Fifth Avenue double-wide townhouse with stained glass circa 1920 is as close as we get to legacy on this side of the Atlantic). An old-timey jazz trio played in the center of the courtyard as the many British-accented guests, among them Gawker’s Nick Denton, Sir Harold Evans, New York Times CEO Mark Thompson, FT’s own John Ridding and Lionel Barber, sipped champagne and vodka, thyme and pink lemonade cocktails.
Michael Bloomberg stopped by to salute the paper for a run that has lasted even longer than his own. Off the Record arrived just as he was rushing off to another event.
“The FT, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Observer are the best newspapers,” Mr. Bloomberg, clad in a red bow tie and clutching an iPad mini, told OTR.
“In the English language, that is,” he added. “There might be some others out there.”
But alas, when we read The New York Times the next day, we learned that the mayor had given a different version of his top three, with the Gray Lady joining the two business titles in place of our own publication. Politicians!
The Moët was flowing, but the food portions were rather dainty, inspiring a few grumbles from an increasingly tipsy crowd.
“I’ll take seven,” OTR overheard a hungry guest say as he grabbed a bite-sized burger.
“You only took one,” replied a confused waiter.
According to one former investment banker-turned-journalist, carrying the FT instead of the Journal is like wearing a bespoke suit: it suggests worldly sophistication.
“It’s kind of an older crowd,” General Assembly co-founder Matthew Brimer said. The tieless Mr. Brimer, in a green oxford shirt, hovered directly outside the door where the waiters emerged bearing trays of diminutive canapés (prompting OTR to mistake the tech star for a reporter).
“I used to be famous,” said James D. Watson, the scientist who helped discover DNA and who wrote The Double Helix. Mr. Watson, who had just returned from Dublin—where he said he was thinking of buying a house, because, why not?—was talking to Paul Rossi, The Economist’s managing director, next to the bar. The FT Group has a 50 percent stake in The Economist. (British financial press has to stick together!)
The celebration drew heavily on the age of the paper. Actors dressed as newsies handed out the next day’s newspaper and gift bags containing a facsimile of the first salmon-colored edition from 1888. The inaugural paper, whose motto reads “without fear and without favour” lists its friends: “The Honest Financier, The Bona Fide Investor, The Respectable Broker, The Genuine Director, The Legitimate Speculator” and its enemies: “The Closed Stock Exchange, The Unprincipled Promoter, The Company Wrecker, The ‘Guinea Pig,’ The ‘Bull,’ The ‘Bear,’ and The Gambling Operator.”)
As we left, we saw that the Empire State Building, which was built 43 years after The Financial Times published its first issue, had illuminated the city with a salmon-colored glow for the occasion.