Andrew Knight

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Andrew Knight - a man 'inexorably drawn to the great and famous’ [1]

Andrew Stephen Bower Knight (born 1 November 1939) is a British newspaper editor who has served as the right hand man to Conrad Black and Rupert Murdoch.

Contents

Early life and education

Knight was born on 1 November 1939 to W. B. Knight and S. E. F. Knight. According to The Guardian Knight is the son of a ‘middle, middle class’ air force officer. [2] He was educated at Ampleforth College in Yorkshire; a Catholic boarding school dubbed the ‘Catholic Eton’ where Cardinal Hume was reportedly Knight’s Housemaster. [3]. Knight was appointed Head Boy at the school. [4] He went on to study Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford where he was close friends with the late Hugo Young, who had also attended Ampleforth. [5].

Career

After graduating Knight spent two years working at the London merchant bankers, J. Henry Schroder Wagg (1961 to 1963). Reportedly ‘disenchanted with the pace of promotion’ he moved into journalism and in 1964 started work at the Investors Chronicle. [6]

The Economist

In 1966 Knight joined The Economist on the international business and investment sections. From March 1968 to April 1970 he served in the Washington offices of the paper before returning to Europe to establish its European section and, in 1973, its Brussels offices. [7] After his posts in Washington and Brussels, Knight ‘lobbied brazenly for the editorship of the paper, and got it, aged 34’ [8]. He was editor of The Economist from October 1974 until 1986, and was named International Editor of the Year by World Press Review in June 1981.

Knight is said to have built on the pro-American legacy of his predecessors during his time as editor, [9] and to have played an important role in expanding the magazine’s international profile.

In her 1993 book The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist 1843-1993, Ruth Dudley Edwards wrote that during his time as editor, Knight was ‘inexorably drawn to the great and famous’ and became ‘notorious for his success in forming relationships with important and influential people’. [10] Another source told The Guardian that Knight’s former colleagues remember him for his pretty looks, his hard work, his charm, and his undisguised fascination for people in power. One colleague was quoted as saying, ‘He really saw journalism, I think, as a way to get close to them [powerful people]’ [11].

Knight’s instinctive respect for power seems to have impacted on his editorial policy. When The Economist published an article by Knight’s friend Henry Kissinger stating that the rightwing coup against Prince Sihanouk’s Cambodian government in 1970 ‘took us completely by surprise’, Samuel Thornton who had worked for American naval intelligence in Saigon wrote a letter to The Economist saying he distinctly remembered planning the coup with the approval of ‘the highest level of government in Washington’. [12] Knight however refused to print the letter, explaining that he had personally checked the allegations and found them to be untrue. According to The Guardian, ‘Knight's investigation consisted largely of conversations with two senior figures. One was Richard Helms - who as director of the CIA at the time of the coup was bound to deny the story. The other was Kissinger.’ [13]

A notable aspect of Knight’s legendary networking is his membership of the Bilderberg Group. Knight was at one time a London recruiting officer for the Group. [14] His entry in Who’s Who states that he was a member of the Steering Committee from 1980 until 1998. [15] It is there he is said to have first met Conrad Black in 1985 [16].

Although it is not suggested anywhere that he specifically facilitated the introduction, Knight was present at the Lunch held at Chequers when Conrad Black first met Margaret Thatcher. According to The Guardian, ‘Thatcher, [Charles] Powell and Knight sat and listened with a degree of awestruck wonder while Black, the Canadian son of a beer-bottling tycoon, regaled them with his encyclopaedic knowledge of English history’ [17].

The Telegraph Group

Knight is widely reported to have tipped off Conrad Black about the opportunity to acquire the Telegraph Group. According to Sarah Sands, Knight set up for Black ‘the chance to pose as white knight’ for the failing paper. [18] Knight is said to have personally made £15 million out of the deal. [19] In January 1986 he was appointed Chief Executive by Black, who ‘allowed Knight to make all the top appointments, and watched from afar.’ [20] According to Max Hastings (who was appointed editor) ‘Knight was clearly understood to be Conrad’s viceroy, with plenary powers’ [21].

Knight famously sacked then Sunday Telegraph editor Peregrine Worsthorne and replaced the daily editor Bill Deedes with Max Hastings. Lord Hartwell, the paper’s former owner was not consulted on Hastings’s appointment and responded angrily. Knight is said to have replied to Lord Hartwell, that he and Black decided not to tell him because ‘we thought you might disagree.’ [22] In Editor: An Inside Story of Newspapers, Hastings described Knight as follows:

He was an unembarrassed name dropper, and had acquired ample ordnance for this purpose over years of networking around the world…I had spent twenty years as a journalist learning to treat the representatives of wealth and power with respect but without deference. Andrew cherished an inherent regard for the possessors of riches. [23]

Hastings recalls receiving ‘cool, rational, and well argued’ memos from Knight advising him on the paper’s political stance, but does not seem to have considered this improper saying he welcomed the advice because of his lack of experience. [24]

Move to News International

On 19 September 1989 Knight announced his resignation as Chief Executive of the Telegraph Group and said ‘he was off to enjoy his newly gained fortune and to contemplate his garden.’ [25] In fact he had made a secret deal with Rupert Murdoch. According to Andrew Neil, Murdoch told him in July 1989, ‘I’ve done a deal with Andrew Knight. He won’t be coming here for a while but once he has prised himself away from Conrad he’s ours.’ [26] Only in January 1990 did Knight announce that he would join News International.

According to Hastings, Knight had long been an admirer of Rupert Murdoch and his decision came as no surprise to observers. Nevertheless, Conrad Black, as The Economist put it, ‘went ballistic, shooting off pages of angry sarcasm to Mr Knight-and the press’ [27]. The day after Knight announced his resignation, Black hand-wrote a letter to Knight which he widely circulated. One passage read:

It seems to be a universally view among people whose friendship we both value in Britain, Canada and the United States, that your prolonged, (if sporadic) courtship with our principal competitor while continuing as the ostensible Chief Executive of The Daily Telegraph, leading to a consummation just 80 days after retiring (awkwardly) as a director of ours, and with your pockets loaded with a net £14 million of free Telegraph stocks, raises substantial ethical questions.

Knight replied with another letter refuting the accusations, which was also widely circulated. In it he described Black’s reaction to his new appointment as ‘the rather sad inaccuracies of a wounded lover’. [28]

In March 1990, as planned, Knight joined News International as Chairman. He was appointed a Director of News Corporation Ltd on 31 January 1991 [29]. As Andrew Neil puts it: ‘To give symbolic significance to this seismic shift, Andrew was to occupy Rupert’s massive office’. [30] Catherine Bennett describes Knight’s office at as follows:

Another security man, polite, uniformed, leads you out through the rain, into what might be the service end of a sixties hospital: great swing doors, lifts big enough for trolleys, draughty corridors clad in orange lino. A severe spending clampdown seems to be in progress here. Then, through swing doors, there are signs of administration, of money. Lino becomes peeling carpet tiles, which, a few miles further on, make way for fitted carpet, which opens into an expanse of luxy Trusthouse Forte lobby-style fittings, finished with pot plants and pretty girls. At last: wealth. The long journey is over. Here, behind walnut veneered doors, reposes Andrew Knight. Around him, another dramatic change in interior decoration tastefully, if unsubtly, announces status and authority. Out with the baby-pink banquettes, in with black leather and chrome le Corbusier armchairs, Eileen Gray tables, a Thonet rocking chair.’ [31]

Andrew Neil described Knight’s role as ‘above all, to be the ambassador for News International. I can speak on behalf of The Sunday Times, and Kelvin MacKenzie can speak on behalf of The Sun,' Neil said, 'but only Andrew Knight in London can speak on behalf of all five papers.’ [32]

At the company Knight became ‘the acceptable face of Rupert Murdoch’. [33] Hastings describes Knight as taking on a new role as ‘Murdoch’s apologist’ - he made speeches, and wrote letters and articles refuting criticisms of Murdoch’s monopoly over the UK media. For example when his old friend Hugo Young wrote a piece in The Guardian in 1993 criticising Murdoch’s media monopoly, the paper later published a 1,044 word response from Knight calling for ‘more kindergarten economics and less kindergarten emotion.’ [34] Andrew Neil writes that, ‘When shareholders in News Corporation rumbled that Rupert had no heir apparent, Andrew was wheeled before the Financial Times as his natural successor’. [35]

What precisely Knight was supposed to be doing in News International however was not clear, and colleagues were reportedly resentful that he didn’t seem to have a defined role in an otherwise pressurised workplace. One of his colleagues was quoted as saying Knight’s role was ‘to ring Rupert Murdoch in the morning and tell him how wonderful he is, and he used to do it with Conrad Black, and now he's doing it with Rupert.’ [36]. Andrew Neil writes that, ‘Andrew stroked Rupert’s ego and Rupert regarded him as a genious’ [37].

In 1993 Knight’s position in News International was drastically reduced, but he remained a News Corporation non-executive director. [38] According to Roy Greenslade it was ‘Knight's lack of involvement in the enterprise which led to Murdoch's disenchantment’. Below is the relevant extract from Greenslade’s article explaining the dismissal:

Knight is known to believe that he was never given a proper chance to run the company as he wished. He argued that News International was too bureaucratic, talking of the ‘heaviness’ of management. This was largely perceived as code for his unhappiness at the roles played by two other key management figures, Gus Fischer and John Dux…The Murdoch view is the reverse of Knight's. He believes that Knight failed to live up to his expectations, refusing to show the kind of commitment which is second nature to most Murdoch executives. Over the years, when I worked at News International and since, I have heard many executives wonder at Knight's laid-back attitude. ‘Andrew never puts his shoulder to the wheel,’ was a favourite comment of one exasperated manager. Others would remark: ‘What does Andrew Knight do all day?’ [39]

Andrew Neil writes that, ‘Rupert parted company with Andrew Knight because he came to regard him as too laid back and semi-detached.’ [40] Other sources simply pointed out that Murdoch would never appoint a lieutenant, and that several individuals who appeared to be close to the tycoon have subsequently been shunned, perhaps signalling his desire to keep it in the family.

Knight nevertheless enormously enriched himself during his time at News International, According to Andrew Neil he acquiring £26 million in News Corporation shares which he placed in an offshore trust. [41] The Guardian reported that he bought shares worth £28 million for £11.93 million. According to that article the Trust referred to by Neil was on the Channel Islands. [42]

In September 1996 Knight teamed up with the Rothschild Investment Trust to buy 24 percent of the local newspaper chain Home Counties. Then in April 1998 Home Counties revealed they were selling out to Eastern Counties Newspapers in a cash deal worth £58.3 million. Knight's reportedly made 7 million from the deal. [43]

After leaving News International Knight has kept a low profile and focused mainly on charity work.

Family and personal life

In 1966 Knight married Victoria Catherine Brittain. [44] Brittain is a journalist and author and is also co-author with Moazzam Begg of his book Enemy Combatant. She is a former associate foreign editor of The Guardian and previously worked at The Times. She was also ITN's first woman reporter. [45]

Knight and Brittain were subsequently divorced and whilst posted in Brussels for The Economist, Knight met Sabiha Rumani Malik who was to become his second wife. [46] Malik’s daughter Giselle Aertsenes (the future author who subsequently changed her name by deed poll to India Knight) then became Knight’s stepdaughter.

In 1991 Knight and Sabiha Malik divorced. Malik then married Knight’s friend, the architect Norman Foster. After their divorce, Malik and Knight were subsequently not on speaking terms at least as of 2000, but Knight’s stepdaughter India remains on good terms with him. [47] In 1999 Sabiha Malik wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph, commemorating the recently deceased Basil Hume in which she described Knight’s condescending attitude to her during their marriage. She wrote that Knight used to say to her, ‘if you had been to Oxford, you might have been as formidable as Sarah Hogg’. She recalled one incident where she was talking to Basil Hume (who was Knight's former housemaster at Ampleforth) about philosophy and politics, and Knight said to Hume, ‘Don't get her into these conversations - she's hopeless’ [48].

In 2006 Knight was married for the third time, this time to the British songwriter and playwright Marita Georgina Phillips Crawley [49].

In December 2007 one of Knight’s daughters Amaryllis was listed as one of 27 friends of Lachlan Murdoch's on the social networking site Facebook along with Conrad Black's step-nephew and publisher of Wired magazine, Matthew Doull. [50].

Charitable Institutions and other roles

Knight is a director of the Rothschild Investment Trust (RITCP); Chairman of the Jerwood Charity and Shipston Home Nursing; a member of the Advisory Board of the Centre of Economic Policy Research at Stanford University, California; a member of the Advisory Council of the Institute of International Studies, Stanford University; Governor and member of the Council of Management of the Ditchley Foundation; Chairman of the Harlech Scholars’ Trust; a Director of the Kirov Opera and Ballet (London).

He was also formerly Chairman of the Ballet Rambert; Trustee of the Victoria & Albert Museum; Governor of Imperial College of Science & Technology; Council member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs [51]; member of the Board of Overseers at the Hoover Institution, Stanford; member of the Steering Committee, Bilderberg Meetings; Council member of Templeton College, Oxford; non-executive Director of Reuters Holdings plc and of Tandem Computers Inc. [52]

Affiliations

Notes

  1. Richard Gott, ‘The Economist? A new history of the magazine reveals that it has more in common with the Guardian than might be expected’, Guardian, 30 August 1993
  2. Catherine Bennett, ‘Mr Murdoch's mixed-up kid’, Guardian, 18 January 1993
  3. John Walsh, ‘John Walsh on Monday: The soul of Britain on a summer night’, Independent, 28 June 1999
  4. Maggie Brown, ‘Media: Business as usual’, Guardian, 27 March 2006
  5. Martin Kettle, ‘Paragon of politicalists’, Financial Times, 24 September 2003
  6. Biography from the Brain and Spine Foundation; Catherine Bennett, ‘Mr Murdoch's mixed-up kid’, Guardian, 18 January 1993
  7. Biography from the Brain and Spine Foundation; Catherine Bennett, ‘Mr Murdoch's mixed-up kid’, Guardian, 18 January 1993
  8. Catherine Bennett, ‘Mr Murdoch's mixed-up kid’, Guardian, 18 January 1993
  9. Richard Gott, ‘The Economist? A new history of the magazine reveals that it has more in common with the Guardian than might be expected’, Guardian, 30 August 1993
  10. Richard Gott, ‘The Economist? A new history of the magazine reveals that it has more in common with the Guardian than might be expected’, Guardian, 30 August 1993
  11. Catherine Bennett, ‘Mr Murdoch's mixed-up kid’, Guardian, 18 January 1993
  12. Francis Wheen, ‘Wheen's world: Being Economist with the truth’, Guardian, 2 October 1996
  13. Francis Wheen, ‘Wheen's world: Being Economist with the truth’, Guardian, 2 October 1996
  14. Christopher Silvester, ‘The diary’, Independent on Sunday, 30 January 2005
  15. Who's Who, A & C Black, January 2007
  16. ‘Keep An Eye On Conrad’, Evening Standard, 31 May 2006
  17. Kamal Ahmed and Michael White, ‘Citizen Conrad Conrad Black's elevation to the peerage will complete his quest to join the British establishment’, Guardian, 10 June 1999
  18. Sarah Sands, ‘Magnificent, but preposterous’, Independent on Sunday, 15 July 2007
  19. e.g. Edward Welsh, ‘Pique practice’, The Times, 11 May 1998
  20. Neil Collins, ‘Judgment Day’, Evening Standard, 13 March 2007
  21. Max Hastings, Editor: An Inside Story of Newspapers (Macmillan, 2002) p.45
  22. David McKie, ‘Profile: Lord Deedes’, Guardian, 15 September 1997
  23. Max Hastings, Editor: An Inside Story of Newspapers, p.45
  24. Max Hastings, Editor: An Inside Story of Newspapers, p.45
  25. Max Hastings, Editor: An Inside Story of Newspapers, p.45
  26. Andrew Neil, Full Disclosure, p. 191
  27. ‘Conrad Black: Tongue-lashing’, Economist, 3 February 1996
  28. Catherine Bennett, ‘Mr Murdoch's mixed-up kid’, Guardian, 18 January 1993
  29. Biography from the Brain and Spine Foundation, http://www.brainandspine.org.uk
  30. Andrew Neil, Full Disclosure, p. 191
  31. Catherine Bennett, ‘Mr Murdoch's mixed-up kid’, Guardian, 18 January 1993
  32. Catherine Bennett, ‘Mr Murdoch's mixed-up kid’, Guardian, 18 January 1993
  33. Catherine Bennett, ‘Mr Murdoch's mixed-up kid’, Guardian, 18 January 1993
  34. Andrew Knight, ‘Tycoon for our times’, Guardian, 6 September 1993
  35. Andrew Neil, Full Disclosure, p. 191
  36. Catherine Bennett, ‘Mr Murdoch's mixed-up kid’, Guardian, 18 January 1993
  37. Andrew Neil, Full Disclosure, p. 191
  38. Emily Bell, ‘Media: The hottest seat in Murdochland’, Observer, 11 July 1999
  39. Roy Greenslade, ‘Wapping myths and mysteries’, Guardian, 29 November 1993
  40. Andrew Neil, Full Disclosure, p. 190
  41. Andrew Neil, Full Disclosure, p. 436
  42. ‘Pass Notes: No 110: Knight Offshore Trust’ Guardian, 16 March 1993
  43. Robert Lea, ‘HCN holders' surprise sell-out to Eastern’, Evening Standard, 21 April 1998; Cliff Feltham, ‘Knight hits jackpot with GBP 58m HC sale’, Daily Mail, 22 April 1998
  44. Who's Who, A & C Black, January 2007
  45. ‘Freelance who became expert on Third World’, The Times, 26 August 1997; Profile at Guardian Unlimited Comment is Free
  46. Who's Who, A & C Black, January 2007
  47. Lynn Barber, ‘India’s Summer’, Observer, 2 July 2000
  48. John Walsh, ‘John Walsh on Monday: The soul of Britain on a summer night’, Independent, 28 June 1999
  49. Who's Who, A & C Black, January 2007
  50. Amiliya Mychasuk and Emiko Terazono, ‘Bancroft pokes the Murdochs’, Financial Times, 13 December 2007
  51. Chatham House
  52. Biography from the Brain and Spine Foundation, http://www.brainandspine.org.uk
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