My boss, Fortune International editor Robert Friedman, arrives in town from New York. He is here to talk business and attend Fortune’s Global 500 gala in the evening with executives from Europe’s 50 largest companies.
The black tie event goes well, much to the delight of the Fortune marketing folks in London, who have been planning it for months. I chat with a Fiat executive about a possible feature on Ferrari, as well as the local heads of Rolls-Royce and Thames Water, both owned by big German companies.
My job as Europe editor involves much more schmoozing than my old responsibilities as a senior writer in New York. My bosses want me out talking to executives as much as possible, raising Fortune’s profile in Europe and looking out for stories that haven’t been covered by the dailies in Europe or America.
This week is closing week for Fortune, which comes out fortnightly, so I’m on the lookout for a story for our First section, which runs shorter items based on breaking news. Robert and I go to lunch at J Sheekey – sister restaurant to The Ivy in Covent Garden – where we map out the magazine’s plans for the the next few months. We talk about which European companies are beating their American rivals, and which American firms are making inroads in Europe.
Robert suggests I follow up on whether scandal-hit shares of Royal Dutch Shell are a good buy or not. The Investing editor is interested, and I start calling analysts in the City and Wall Street for a short piece on Shell.
The social merry-go-round continues, with a cocktail party to welcome me to London. Stelios Haji-Iannou, chairman of easyJet, drops by, as do friends of mine from the American press in London and the BBC. The battle between easyJet and other rival low-cost carriers is an interesting story, but it’s hard to stack up a global angle.
I stay late calling oil analysts in New York to get this story on Shell together. As I frequently write about the energy industry, they are co-operative.
The energy industry is a good beat for a Fortune editor in Europe.
Petrol costs more than $2 a gallon in the US – a bargain by European standards but painfully expensive to Americans – so readers are hungry for news on the energy sector. I often work late during our closing week, talking with editors in New York and interviewing sources who can contribute to my copy.
Power game: Nelson Schwartz schmoozes with company executives in London to find the stories that will interest the likes of Arnie and co
I’m greeted with bad news on Friday morning. Although the editors like the Shell story, it has to be cut down to about 200 words and the lead I have spent so much time stacking up bites the dust. But at least the short item helps get me in the new issue.
Since starting as Europe editor in late April, I’ve tried to have something in every issue if possible.
I have lunch with reporters from the London bureau of the Wall Street Journal. Since arriving in London, I’ve been making an effort to get to know other American and British reporters here in town. The Journal reporters are a friendly lot.
After lunch, public relations people from a British retail chain call in to pitch a story. I explain that if the store isn’t that well-known in the US, it’s a pretty tough sell. I get calls from PR people all the time pitching stories, and I wonder if any of them actually ever read the magazine.
Copy is moving slowly, so it’s going to be a late night. I grab a drink with a friend from the BBC in the private bar in the basement of Bush House before returning to wait for proofs of my story via e-mail.
I begin work on a memo to the editors in New York outlining possible stories for the rest of the summer and autumn.
Even before I get the memo off to New York, Robert e-mails me. The editors want a story on the Russian oil industry within the next month.
I was thinking of going back to New York for a week for a taste of real summer, but I will now have to postpone that. I start calling Moscow, desperately hoping it’s not like Scandinavia or Germany, where just about everyone in business is on holiday at this time of year.
Well, Moscow in August beats Moscow in December. And at least I know where I can find former Yukos chief executive officer Mikhail Khodorkovsky – he’s still in a Moscow jail and I guess he’s got no plans to go anywhere.