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November 12, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:33am

Financial Times appoints first female editor as Lionel Barber steps down

By Freddy Mayhew

The Financial Times has appointed its first female editor in its 131-year history in a “new chapter” as Lionel Barber steps down in the New Year.

Barber has spent 14 years at the helm of the newspaper, describing it as a “rare privilege” and the “the best job in journalism” in a tweet announcing his departure today.

He will be succeeded by Roula Khalaf, who has been the FT’s deputy editor since 2016.

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Barber began his journalism career in 1978 as a reporter for the Scotsman, before moving to the Sunday Times three years later. He joined the FT in 1985 as a business reporter.

His departure at the beginning of 2020 will end a 34-year career with the business title, which was bought by Japanese firm Nikkei in 2015.

In a message to staff, Barber said: “When I took over as editor  I pledged to restore the gold standard in the FT’s reporting and commentary, and to help the board to build a sustainably profitable business based on digital transformation.

“Since Nikkei purchased the FT I have also worked hard to cement our global media alliance. Together we have achieved these goals, passing the milestone of one million paying FT readers this year.”

Nikkei chairman Tsuneo Kita said Barber had “transformed the FT newsroom into a world class digital-first operation” whose “journalism has never been stronger”.

“He is a strategic thinker, true internationalist and great friend of Nikkei, Kita added. “Lionel and I have built personal trust over the last several years; it’s very sad to see him leave the FT.

“However, both of us agree it is time to open a new chapter.”

Newly appointed editor Khalaf has been at the FT for 24 years, joining in 1995 as North Africa correspondent from a job as a staff writer at Forbes magazine in New York.

She has previously served as the FT’s foreign editor and Middle East editor, leading its coverage of the Arab Spring. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Khalaf said: “It’s a great honour to be appointed editor of the FT, the greatest news organisation in the world. I’m thrilled to be leading the most talented newsroom through the next chapter of FT excellence.

“look forward to building on Lionel Barber’s extraordinary achievements and am grateful for his mentorship through the years.”

Roula Khalaf succeeds Lionel Barber as FT editor

Kita said he had “full confidence”  that Khalaf “will continue the FT’s mission to deliver quality journalism without fear and without favour, inspire and lead a team of the most talented journalists and pursue the FT’s new agenda covering business, finance, economics and world affairs”.

He added: “Roula’s 24-year FT career, including her tenure as deputy editor, has proven her integrity, determination and sound judgment. We look forward to working closely with her to deepen our global media alliance.”

Barber tweeted of Khalaf’s appointment: “A great journalist and leader of the next FT chapter.”

Khalaf will be the fourth incumbent female national newspaper editor in the UK when she starts her new role, alongside the Guardian’s Kath Viner, the Daily Mirror’s Alison Phillips and the Sun on Sunday’s Victoria Newton.

Pictures: FT

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