By Shruti Ganguly
What time do you wake up in the morning?
Between 6:45 and 7:15 a.m.
What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Play with my 105-pound Bullmastiff, Simba.
Coffee or tea?
A very strong espresso.
What’s for breakfast?
I don’t eat breakfast.
But what’s your favorite spot for a breakfast meeting, if you had to have one?
My position on breakfast is, if the pope came to New York and insisted (although I’m not Catholic) on having a breakfast meeting, I would do it. But he hasn’t asked, and no one else is that important. I never have breakfast meetings.
“I re-discovered that I actually like doing things myself.”
Not that it’s about me, but it’s kind of funny that my first job doing any interviews was interning at Reuters when I was in college.
It’s a good start.
When you meet someone at a cocktail party and you’re trying to actually consolidate everything you’ve done in a sentence, what would you say you’ve done or you’re doing?
It used to be really simple, because I would just say, “Oh, I’m the chief executive of Reuters,” and people thought they knew what Reuters was about, although they really didn’t. And they think they know what a chief executive does, but they don’t really. So, you know, now I just say I’m unemployed. It’s easier.
But you’re not really unemployed!
No, I guess what I say is, I do early stage venture. Although most of what I do now involves two companies I co-founded. One is a cyber defense business, and the other is a fintech platform.
Having run a news organization in a different time when news was respected, to now — what are some of your thoughts on what has happened in the media landscape?
I think that it is an incredibly important time for Reuters, and I think it could and should play a more prominent role. In an environment that is so polarized and one in which the president lies so blatantly, one has to develop new skills in an effort to essentially truth-check on a constant running basis.
How do truth and commerce find a common ground?
Uneasily. I actually have a couple of friends who are trying to attack the fake news issue. They founded a company I just helped finance called NewsGuard, which is like a credit-rating agency for news sources. So they are going to create, in essence, nutritional label information for 98 percent of the sources that get shared on social media.
You saw Reuters through a pretty big merger. What was the biggest challenge of putting those two companies together, and then on?
They were two very different cultures. And that’s the bit I spent the most time on. And now, to some extent, it’s being unwound. Thomson Reuters announced the sale of a majority of the financial services unit to Blackstone.
When did you know you were awestruck for the first time?
A good amount of awestruck ends up being the received wisdom of the reputation when you meet the person, as opposed to the presence. So this may sound trite, but it was Mandela. I met him in the UK a couple times, and the first time, he said, “I want to thank you for saving my life.” And I was like, “Well, I’m gonna thank you for everything you’ve done for . . . humanity. You owe me no thanks.” And he said, “Well, you know, all those years I was on Robben Island, Reuters continued to truthfully report about the struggle, what we were doing, the ANC — in the face of real oppression — and I have no doubt that that level of international attention kept me alive when it would’ve been more convenient to get rid of me.” So it was pretty hard not to be completely blown away by that.
How can people be better consumers of better media?
Part of my answer is old fashioned, but brands really matter. The New York Times is a long-standing, reputable, left-leaning-at-times, but high-journalistic-standards organization. The New York Examiner . . . not so much. Get politics from the FT, not The Sun.
What was something that you learned about yourself that you didn’t know all these years, when you started your first company?
I re-discovered that I actually like doing things myself. When you have 60,000 employees, if I wrote my own press release, people would say, “Shouldn’t you be running your company or something?” But, in a startup, it’s who has the ability to do it and who has the time to do it. I’ve always liked being a player coach as opposed to, you know, being a CEO, where you’ve become just a manager.
What’s the most important thing that you’ve ever invested in?
Well, I think the most important investment ends up being time. It’s a luxury. You’re told to diversify financial investments, but it’s very difficult to diversify yourself. The single most important investment I made was 19 years at Reuters and Thomson Reuters, and I’m very glad I made that because it was a remarkable company with people I’m still really close to. I felt it had a good purpose in the world.
What are you most excited about this year?
So the single most important thing for me in work this year is to not take anything else on. I’m curious, I love new challenges, I love learning new things, and I have trouble saying “No” when somebody says, “Hey, you know, this is a really interesting quantum computing company and we could really use your help; you could mentor the CEO,” and the right answer is, “I’ve got an incredibly full plate; if anything else, I should do less. Thank you, I’m flattered, but no.”