John Leahy is blessed with such a silver tongue they say that he could sell a spare pair of trousers to a corpse. The reason that so many of us travel on Airbus aircraft is down to this ballsy, buccaneering American salesman who I spent time with for this major profile in French Vanity Fair. Boeing which used to rule the commercial aviation market have good cause to loathe Leahy as they now have to endure 50-50 market share with its once-upstart European competitor. When Leahy arrived at Airbus’s Toulouse HQ in 1995 the pan-European plane-maker (the Brits make the wings) had just 18 per cent of global sales. A mid-height, highly-driven, thick-skinned New Yorker with a genteel speaking voice from a Fifties movie, Leahy is not a man given to self-doubt but thirty years ago nobody would have taken a bet on his becoming the greatest salesman, not to say showman, in aviation history. So far he’s sold a trillion dollars-worth of aircraft. This is the inside story of how those deals were done by ‘The Man Boeing Loves to Hate’. It also reveals why the globe-trotting Leahy who strides the aviation battle grounds where those deals are done pushed one his best friends Steve Udvar Házy, the ebullient Hungarian-born billionaire godfather of aircraft leasing, into a swimming pool at an Airbus corporate retreat in Hawaii and sealed a deal for 200 aircraft on the dance floor of a Paris nightclub. View article 

Jobs of the Future

Vertical farmer, artificial limb builder, alternative vehicle maker, virtual lawyer. These jobs of the future featured in this piece for The Times Magazine are already with us. But what about new-science ethicist; climate-change reversal specialist; avatar manager, and my favourite, memory-augmentation surgeon? He or she will add extra memory capacity to people who want to increase their recall ability and help those suffering sensory shutdown. This piece was inspired by the work of Rohit Talwar, futurist and strategic advisor, and his organisation FastFuture (“Accelerating Innovation”) View article

"We're the Good Guys. We're on the side of the Angels"

Proud of its tough and aggressive culture, energy giant ENRON was America’s seventh largest corporation. In just 16 years it grew from about $10 billion of assets to nearly $70 billion. But it was built on a lie. Corruption was rife, senior execs were on the take. It was a house of cards built over a pool of gasoline, so fast did it disintegrate. It took ENRON 24 days to go bankrupt. Prison sentences followed. I was asked to write the programme note charting the scandal for Lucy Prebble’s excellent play ENRON, directed by Rupert Goold which premiered at Chichester Festival Theatre ( to rave reviews. It then went to the West End, New York and on a UK tour. View article 

The King of Vinyl

Zdeněk Pelc wears the smile of a man who has been proved right as he leads the way into a long, two-storey 100-year-old building which was once a weaving factory in the village of Loděnice, 40 minutes outside Prague. Today it is the scene of a literal musical revolution. When the music business announced the death of vinyl and ditched its presses Pelc and his company GZ kept theirs. Vinyl came back and today at 20 million units a year GZ is the world’s biggest producer of discs. Every week 35 tonnes of newly pressed discs leave the factory bound for the United States alone.   View article

L'implacable Monsieur Mittal

Out of nowhere in late 2012 I got a call from Olivier Bouchara, commissioning editor of the upcoming new French edition of Vanity Fair magazine. He had just read and enjoyed Cold Steel. “Mr Mittal is very controversial in France; will you write us a profile of him for our launch issue?” In 2012 Mittal had upset French politicians, especially the then Minister of Industrial Recovery Arnaud Montebourg who had threatened to expel Mittal from France and nationalise his steel plants which employ some 20,000 people when ArcelorMittal announced plans to close down two blast furnaces as world demand for steel plummeted. A few hundred jobs were under threat—later to be saved. Mr Montebourg had been strangely muted when Renault announced it was laying off 8,000. Once again I went in search of Mr Mittal who is no stranger to French controversy as anyone who has read Cold Steel will know. This 7,000 word profile was in the launch issue of Vanity Fair July 2013 with the cover line Qui Êtes-Vous Mister Mittal? The postscript is that Mr Mittal, ever the stealth diplomat, is still Mr Mittal, still employs 20,000 French steel workers on 150 sites in France while Mr Montebourg, a knee-jerk gunslinger, is no longer in government. C’est la vie.  View article