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John Parcell's rough path to management

John Parcell, fresh from the battlefields of Vietnam and Cambodia, succeeded me in 1974 as Reuters chief representative for Mexico and Central America. When he arrived in Mexico City with his wife Anne he was less concerned about how Reuters had put him in harm’s way than about company bureaucracy which delayed the shipment of his personal effects from Singapore by six months.

It was a halcyon time in Mexico, without the drug cartel wars that broke out later. But violence and natural disasters were never far away in Central America.

In September 1974 a hurricane hit the region, causing floods and mudslides in Honduras and Guatemala and killing more than 10,000 people. Sitting at my desk in Madrid during the last year of General Franco’s dictatorship, I could imagine John wading through floodwaters and dictating a story to New York on a shaky public telephone line. There were no mobile or satellite phones then.

I was not surprised when John decided to give up the life of a foreign correspondent and join European marketing management. ■