Journalist who drove international expansion of 'FT'

Sat, Jan 19, 2013, 00:00

Dominick Coyle, Born: June 10th, 1933 Died: January 9th, 2013Nearly 35 years ago, a handful of strong characters were driving the early international expansion of the Financial Times. By common consent of the rest of them, key to making that happen was Dominick Coyle, who has died aged 79.

The Co Louth-born journalist had been the paper’s correspondent in Dublin and then Rome when, at a time when the print unions could easily bring publication to a halt and on many an occasion did, he was posted to Frankfurt. His mission was to set up and run the satellite editorial end of the FT’s first remote publishing operation.

In 1979, with some pages transmitted by large-format facsimile from London and others compiled locally under Coyle’s supervision, the Europe edition was born. Frankfurt spawned some two dozen further print sites around the world. Within 19 years, circulation abroad was bigger than in Britain.

“He ran the German end with great aplomb,” said Sir David Bell, former director of people at the parent, Pearson.

“He was also very much a European who saw all the EU’s advantages even though he was always a realist about its challenges.”

According to another senior colleague, challenges close to home at one point brought a visit by the German police. They were concerned at having heard that a Dubliner was working in the same room as an Ulsterman subeditor, “since everyone knew Irish Catholics and Protestants just killed each other”.

On the contrary. Coyle long held an interest in how to resolve European armed conflicts. His 1983 book, Minorities in Revolt, drew on his knowledge of Ireland, Italy and Cyprus, where nine years earlier he had covered the Turkish invasion.

Desk editors were known to despair at the length and near-Joycean convolutedness of some articles he filed – while managers had not before encountered a journalist wont to bring a lawyer or accountant along to negotiations on his next job or pay rise. After being brought back to London to take editorial charge of the international operation as a whole, he held roles that included head of markets.

Irascible and jokily genial by turn, he was an Italophile bon viveur and opera buff. Once asked in the office to outline Verdi’s Rigoletto by someone about to see his first production, a rapid-fire rundown ended with: “She dies in the sack.” Only by the final act did the young colleague twig that there was to be no bedroom scene and that Coyle’s conclusion had been mischievously literal.

Born in Drogheda, the Christian Brothers-educated son of a policeman went first into freelance journalism.

With his wife, Anna, he lived in the US and UK as well as Ireland before he joined the FT. She survives him along with four children, Dominic, Bairbre, Feilim and Triona; his sister Peggy; brother Peter and nine grandchildren. Dominic is deputy business editor of The Irish Times.

They lost an infant daughter next to whom Coyle, who retired in 1991, was buried in Dublin on Thursday.