There were five strong internal candidates hoping to take over from Richard Lambert as editor of the Financial Times.
The one who got the job, Andrew Gowers, editor of FT Deutschland, could not bear to sit at home beside the telephone on Wednesday night last week waiting to be told Pearson’s decision. So he and his wife took the "risky step" of going out to a restaurant with a mobile phone.
"We sat there not knowing whether we should order champagne or vodka," said Gowers. The call came at two minutes to 10 – and the champagne cork popped shortly afterwards. "I felt an enormous wave of elation," he said.
A consummate Financial Times man – he has been at the paper 18 years after training at Reuters – Gowers was described by Pearson boss Marjorie Scardino in her memo to staff last Thursday as "an outstanding journalist" whose "most recent feat of courage was to move to Hamburg to create and edit FT Deutschland … a great success in a fierce market."
Gowers told Press Gazette he had spoken to Scardino in March when "the subject of ‘after Richard’ was up for discussion". He had another conversation in June.
He believed the main thing that helped his candidacy was the successful establishment of FT Deutschland. "It’s not every day one gets the chance to establish a newspaper in a language other than one’s own," he said.
He added: "The FT is on an extremely successful course right now of major expansion around the world. Richard has done a brilliant job in bringing that forward over the past 10 years and revolutionising the composition and the size of the circulation. My job is to continue to build on that."
He starts his coveted new job at the end of September, taking over from Lambert who has been in the chair for 10 years. His year as acting editor of the FT in 1997/98 while Lambert was boosting sales in the US must also have been a deciding factor in his appointment.
Gowers has been the paper’s agricultural correspondent, commodities editor, Middle East editor, features editor, foreign editor and deputy editor.
"My first job as editor, starting now, is to keep my trap shut and my ears open," said Gowers.
Lambert will stay until December, to help with the transition. He has spent all his working life – 35 years – at the Financial Times and felt that at 56 he had stayed long enough. But he is definitely not retiring. "I want a new job! I’m up for it," he said forcefully.
But he says he honestly doesn’t know what he is going to do. "I feel it’s good to go when you are enjoying yourself. I wanted to choose my own time," he said.
Lambert’s best moments at the FT have been "when we have had a whopping big story and we are on top of it and the whole lovely machinery is humming. You can hear a buzzing noise in the newsroom."
His US experience was, he said "beyond belief". When he set off for the US, he felt he was starting "a great adventure – and that’s what I’m doing now," he added.
Gowers’ successors in Hamburg at FT Deutschland are to be his joint deputies, Wolfgang Munchau and Christof Keese.
By Jean Morgan