Robert Peston (born 25 April 1960) is a British journalist. Since February 2006, he has been the Business Editor for BBC News. He became known to a wider public with his reporting of the financial crisis of 2007–2010, especially with his scoop on the Northern Rock crisis.
Early life and education
Peston is the son of economist and later Labour peer Maurice Peston and his NHS-employee wife. The couple believed passionately in state education, and sent Robert to the local comprehensive school, Highgate Wood Secondary School, in Crouch End, North London. Peston graduated from Balliol College, Oxford in 1982, and then studied at the Université Libre de Bruxelles after winning a scholarship.
Peston briefly worked at stockbroker Williams de Broë, before he became a journalist in 1983 for the Investors Chronicle and joining The Independent newspaper for its launch in 1986. From 1989 to 1990 Peston worked for the short-lived Sunday Correspondent newspaper as Deputy City Editor, before being appointed City Editor of the Independent on Sunday in 1990.
From 1991 to 2000, he worked for the Financial Times. At the FT, he was - at various times - Political Editor, Banking Editor and head of an investigations unit (which he founded). During his time as Political Editor he memorably fell out with the then Downing Street Press Secretary Alastair Campbell who regularly mimicked Peston's habit of flicking back his hair and once responded to a difficult question with the words: "Another question from the Peston school of smartarse journalism." His last position at the FT was Financial Editor (in charge of business and financial coverage).
In 2000, he became editorial director of the online financial analysis service Quest, owned by the financial firm, Collins Stewart. At the same time, he became a contributing editor of The Spectator and a weekly columnist for the Daily Telegraph In 2001 he switched allegiance from the Telegraph to the Sunday Times, where he wrote a weekly business profile, Peston's People, and left The Spectator for the New Statesman, where he wrote a weekly column.
In late 2005, it was announced that Peston would succeed Jeff Randall as BBC Business Editor, responsible for business and city coverage on the corporation's flagship TV and radio news programmes, the BBC News Channel, its website and on Radio 4's Today.
On 4 February 2009, Peston appeared as a witness at the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, along with Alex Brummer (City Editor, Daily Mail), Lionel Barber (Editor of Financial Times), Simon Jenkins (Guardian), and Sky News Business Editor Jeff Randall to answer questions on the role of the media in financial stability and "whether financial journalists should operate under any form of reporting restrictions during banking crises".
Possible Serious Fraud Office probe
It was announced on 19 October 2008 that the Serious Fraud Office may launch a probe into the source of one of Peston's scoops. One, broken in September in the fraught atmosphere of the global financial crisis of 2008, revealed that merger talks between HBOS and Lloyds TSB were at an advanced stage. In the minutes before the broadcast, buyers purchased millions of HBOS shares at the deflated price of 96p; in the hour following it, they could be sold for 215p.
Peston is a past winner of the Harold Wincott Senior Financial Journalist of the Year Award (2005), the London Press Club's Scoop of the Year Award (2005), Granada Television's What the Papers Say award for Investigative Journalist of the Year (1994) and the Wincott Young Financial Journalist of the Year (1986).
At the Royal Television Society's Television Journalism Awards 2008/09 Peston won both "Specialist Journalist of the Year" and "Television Journalist of the Year" for his coverage of the credit crunch and a string of 'scoops' associated with it. Also, his scoop on Lloyds TSB's takeover of HBOS won the Royal Television Society's "Scoop of the Year" award. He was voted Best Performer in a Non-Acting Role in the Broadcasting Press Guild's 2009 awards and Business Journalist of the Year in the London Press Club's 2009 awards. In the 2008 Wincott Awards, he won the Broadcaster of the Year Award and he won the online award for his blog.
In 2009, he was named Political Journalist of the Year in the Political Studies Association Awards, and he topped polls of the general public and journalists carried out by PressGazette to find the highest rated finance and business journalist.
Peston's scoop on Northern Rock seeking emergency financial help from the Bank of England won the Royal Television Society's Television Journalism Award for Scoop of the Year in the 2007/8 awards and the Wincott Award for Business News/Current Affairs Programme of the Year. He was Journalist of the Year in the Business Journalism of the Year Awards for 2007/08, and also won in the Scoop category.
Peston won the Work Foundation's Broadcast News Journalism Award and the Foundation's Radio Programme of the Year Award (for his File on 4, "The Inside Story of Northern Rock"). His blog won the digital media category in the Private Equity and Venture Capital Journalist of the Year Awards.
In spite of his accolades, the transition from print media has been difficult for Peston, and his curious delivery on radio and television news has attracted criticism from diverse sources. The Times, for example, brands his style "ragged and querulous", and more recently "rambling" and "excruciatingly hard to listen to" . The Telegraph identifies "strangulated diction" and "repetition of small words" among his traits; in the same article, though maintaining he is "loads better than [he] was", Peston himself concedes he is "still not as polished as some". His characteristic mannerisms have been particularly well-observed by impressionist Rory Bremner.
Peston has stated "I am not going to endeavour to become somebody hugely smooth and polished."
Peston published his biography of Gordon Brown Brown's Britain in January 2005, which details the rivalry between Gordon Brown and the then Prime Minister Tony Blair. Brown's Britain was described by Sir Howard Davies, director of the London School of Economics, as "a book of unusual political significance". The fly cover of the book describes how "Peston was given unprecedented access to Gordon Brown and his friends and colleagues". Telling Brown's side of the Blair/Brown power struggle, it is believed that Peston has used the relationship then built up with Brown for many of his later financial news story "scoops" at the BBC.
In February 2008, Hodder & Stoughton published Peston's latest book, "Who Runs Britain? How the Super-Rich are Changing our Lives." In The Guardian, Polly Toynbee said of it: "Reading Peston's book, you can only be flabbergasted all over again at how Labour kowtowed to wealth, glorified the City and put all the nation's economic eggs into one dangerous basket of fizzy finance."
Peston is married to the writer Sian Busby, writer of a book about the warrior queen Boudicca. The couple have two sons. Peston relaxes by listening to his collection of 500 singles from the Seventies. He is also an avid artist and enjoys painting scenes of ocean settings and wild animals. He supports Arsenal F.C.
Since his father's ennoblement in 1987, Peston's correct style has been the Hon. Robert Peston.
- “One of Middleton's great skills is to persuade police constables, youth group organisers, permanent secretaries, FTSE chief executives and head teachers that they can learn from each other and could even cure some of society's ills.”
- Grice, Elizabeth (2008-01-24). "Robert Peston: 'I'm not going to become smooth and phoney'", London: The Telegraph. Retrieved on 2008-10-08.
- White, D. (2005-12-10). "Peston in line as BBC voice of business", London: Telegraph. Retrieved on 2009-02-28.
- James Silver (2005-12-19). "This man means business at the BBC", London: Guardian. Retrieved on 2009-02-28.
- Robert Peston, thorn in Darling’s side. The First Post (2008-10-08). Retrieved on 2009-02-29.
- "Robert Peston", BBC (2006-07-14). Retrieved on 2009-02-28.
- Treasury Committee Treasury Committee: Press List
- Leigh Holmwood and James Robinson BBC's Robert Peston in furious face-to-face row with James Murdoch The Observer 30 August 2009
- SFO probe Guardian Online
- RTS Website,(Retrieved 6 March 2009)
- Broadcasting Press Guild Website, (Retrieved 1 May 2009)
- London Press Club Website, (Retrieved 1 May 2009)
- Robert Peston. BBC (2009). Retrieved on 2009-02-28.
- Winners of the Workworld media awards announced. The Work Foundation (2008-01-28). Retrieved on 2009-04-21.
- BVCA Private Equity and Venture Capital Journalist of the Year Award Winners. BVCA. Retrieved on 2009-04-21.
- Peston criticised by The Times Times Online
- Peston criticised again by The Times Times Online
- Robert Peston Interview The Telegraph
- Bremner, Bird and Fortune: Silly Money The Telegraph
- Cheryl loses TV crown to, er, BBC news man - thelondonpaper, 27 March 2009
- Polly Toynbee (2008-02-19). "Labour's election hopes rely on things they don't control", London: Guardian. Retrieved on 2009-02-28.
- BBC biography
|Business editor of BBC News
2006 - present