Rudi Saks - a newsman's newsman
Wednesday 23 January 2019
Rudi Saks was my great colleague and friend for 30 years. Not just at the type face, but also in retirement.
Yes, he could be a combative soul at times when necessary. But in general geniality and generosity characterised him. His superb professionalism was never in doubt. For me he was the newsman's newsman.
Our lives often seemed to run in parallel. Like me in REMA Rudi in RAM had a journalistic career before Reuters. Like me he joined the old Reuters Economic Services long before the company's news operations merged. We both enjoyed early postings as humble econ correspondents before eventually winding up as regional financial news editors for text and subsequently for television. And both of us had the wisdom to marry European brides.
Thanks to an early posting to Los Angeles Rudi acquired key traits for future news editors: an understanding of the need to attack stories as soon in the day as possible and the ability to track news across a wide geographic area. The LA bureau opened in 1968 with a huge West Coast coverage responsibility. Its chief Bruce Russell wrote in a Reuter publication in 1969: "As the sun rises on the suburbs of eastern Los Angeles - that is shortly before the smog sets - Rudi Saks is leaving his home about 23 miles south-east of the city to take the Santa Ana freeway and be in the office in time for the opening of the stock exchanges. This is a comfortable enough nine o'clock in New York, but given the three hours difference in Los Angeles time the office here has to open at 6 a.m. Rudi shares this 'early bird’ start with the entire stockbroking community which must live its life dominated by New York hours. By eight Rudi is joined by the second of our financial reporters, Bob Ricci, who remains throughout the day to cope with the never-ending flow of calls from hundreds of western corporations with quarterly earnings and news releases."
My initial relationship with Rudi was rather edgy. We later attributed this to the rivalry between regional financial news divisions. We each believed our own side of the pond was near perfect. No surprise there, then. However, whilst attending an econ editors' conference in Tokyo some years later, we sat face to face late at night in a hotel roof bar downing an Asahi Dry or two. Perhaps it was three. Despite being econ specialists our maths was not that hot! We concluded that our differences were pretty petty, especially when we agreed 1) that we both loved the financial/economic newsfiles, and 2) that we hoped to do all we could to raise the status inside editorial of financial journalists. We also thought that financial journalism could be fun, even if its content must always be handled deadly seriously. Following our Japan summit we became "best buds". Incidentally, contrary to what top editorial managers might have believed, editors' conferences were never unremittingly all hard graft. Rudi and I (and others who had better remain nameless) revelled in Hong Kong during its famous Rugby Sevens tournament and delighted in London's wonderful theatre, the unbeatable cuisine of Paris, the superb jazz in New York and Chicago's unforgettable blues bars.
Our relationship ripened when Rudi and his wife Siegi transferred to London in the 1990s. That meant more opportunities to meet outside work. Together with my wife and sometimes others we enjoyed day trips to the Cotswolds, the Vale of the White House in Wiltshire and to Bournemouth, or, to dine splendidly al fresco on a hot summer's day at The French Horn in Sonning. Truly admirable was Rudi's willingness to sink a pint of bitter with me. Traditionally, the quickest way to alienate American colleagues was to buy them British beer. Not so with Rudi. In return he introduced me in Manhattan to Gibson martinis of such quality that I have never drunk martinis outside the US since. In retirement he often spoke or wrote fondly of his work and his colleagues in REMA. One special highlight was a trip to Latvia, the homeland he'd left as a young boy.
When Rudi returned to New York in the late 1990s, he became RAM's news editor for Reuters Financial Television, my REMA equivalent. In 1999 I had the pleasure of a couple of months running RFTV in New York, socialising again with Rudi and Siegi, most memorably in a weekend at their home in Westport, CT when I was taken on a mini leaf-peeping tour. Did I imagine there were really soccer pitches at West Point Academy in those days? Later, when he had retired and was on holiday in Europe, I was able to guide them through the limited delights of Worthing, West Sussex. After we had both retired, we kept in regular touch. Rudi provided me with many invaluable insights into US political and economic twists, whilst I did my best to brief him on various European turns, notably with regard to Brexit and Germany.
I'm still shocked by Rudi's death last week. My deepest sympathies go to his wife and family. RIP Rudi, old pal. ■