This article was originally published in the November 2019 issue of Gentleman’s Journal. Subscribe here.
It’s been just over a year since Geordie Greig — the former editor of the Mail on Sunday, the Evening Standard, and Tatler — took over at the Daily Mail. This was the first change in the hot seat since 1992, when Paul Dacre was appointed — and it has not been entirely without consequence.
Before Greig had even got going, Dacre, in a Spectator diary, wrote that ‘any move to reverse’ the Daily Mail’s support for Brexit, which, he said, is in its DNA, ‘would be editorial and commercial suicide,’ knowing full well his successor’s Remain leanings.
Then, in October this year, Greig gave an interview over lunch to the Financial Times, and all hell broke loose. (Dacre, in his 26-year reign, had never given another newspaper such a scoop.) In this interview, Greig claimed that 265 advertisers returned to the Mail in his year as editor; a week later, Dacre, now chairman and editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers, the unit of DMG Media that owns the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, exploded in its letters page.
“Admirable chap he may be, but Geordie Greig… is as economic with the actualité as your paper is in reporting matters Brexit,” he wrote. “In fact, far more than that number [of advertisers] left during the same period.” He wasn’t finished, citing his own achievements, including that of the justice for Stephen Lawrence campaign. “As for Mr Greig, I congratulate him on making a solid start as editor… I’m sure he’ll forgive me for suggesting that he (or his PR) defers his next lunch with the FT until he has notched up a small fraction of those journalists’ achievements.” Greig, a Daily Mail journalist explains, has taken on a full-time PR man, which ‘Dacre would be absolutely appalled by.’
But who is the man now running Britain’s most notorious newspaper? George ‘Geordie’ Greig was born in 1960, the son of Monica Stourton, granddaughter of the 24th Lord Mowbray, Segrave and Stourton, and Sir Carron Greig, a former Scots Guards officer and shipbroker, himself the son of Sir Louis Greig, equerry to the future George VI, and member of the January Club, a group associated with the British Union of Fascists.
One of the Greigs’ four children – his twin sister Laura was a lady-in-waiting to Diana, Princess of Wales – young Geordie was educated at Eton, before reading English at St Peter’s College, Oxford. Graduating, he made his career in local newspapers, before making it to the Daily Mail, and then in 1987 to the Sunday Times. In 1991, he moved to New York to be US correspondent, before returning to London as literary editor in 1995.
An admirer of the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope, at school he began writing letters to interesting people – to the artist Francis Bacon, Joanna Lumley, and to sculptor Henry Moore amongst others. His letters to Lucian Freud are the most famous, beginning as a request for interview in the school magazine. When Freud declined, Greig tried again, and again, telling the FT that he “sort of stalked [Freud]… I twisted my way into getting access to him through a bit of deception, charm and kidnapping.”
His tenacity paid off: after 20 years, he met Freud and in 2013 published Breakfast with Lucian, a portrait of the artist. That Greig was able to convince the reclusive Freud to talk, wrote a Telegraph reviewer of the book in 2013, was evidence that the future Mail editor was a “persistent networker and subtle schmoozer capable of loosening the tightest of lips”. In 1995 he married Kathryn Terry, a Texan with whom he has three children: twins Monica and Octavia, 19, and Jasper, 21, Tatler’s London editor.
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