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Peter Bild - superb energy reporter who pulled off pricing coup

Peter Bild  pulled off one of the most daring and ambitious journalistic pricing coups of all time. When he was setting up the weekly edition of Energy Compass in 1989, the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES) -- leading source of energy information at the time -- was asking clients around $1,000 a year. Peter thought he could charge more than double that for a much superior product. He thought the higher price might actually be an enticement to clients. So his pitch to the publisher of the planned new weekly,  Raja Siddawi, was that the fax-based service should be priced at 2,500.

"Dollars or pounds?" asked Siddawi. On the spur of the moment, Peter replied: "Pounds". And pounds it was. (50 per cent more at the time).

Shortly afterwards Peter offered me a job at Energy Compass after I had submitted one the new journal’s early reports on the U.S. selling the Abrams M1 tank to the Saudis, with its astonishing consumption of seven (US) gallons to the mile.

Diane Munro, who went on to join the International Energy Agency, and I were the first two hires, and Peter got a host of insider stories — all distributed by fax — that kept us going and I guess justified the extortionate price we were charging!

John Roberts worked for Reuters for 10 years until 1978, including a long stint in Asia, and then reported on energy for various other publications. He currently writes reports for the Atlantic Council and other think tanks on Caspian and Central Asian energy issues.