Boyden Executive Search

When Roula Khalaf takes the editorial helm, The Financial Times will have its first female Editor in its 131-year history as a pillar of financial media.

Roula Khalaf is a 24-year veteran of the London-based Financial Times, and will assume the Editor post in January. Lionel Barber has been Editor since 2005, making him the longest-serving editor of a British national newspaper. A division of British media company Pearson PLC since 1957, The Financial Times (FT) was sold to Japanese financial media company Nikkei for $1.3 billion in 2015. It reached one million paying subscribers earlier this year. “It’s a great honour to be appointed editor of the FT, the greatest news organization in the world,” Khalaf said.

Barber pointed out that he had been consulting with the FT’s owners for over a year about the leadership succession. “You mustn’t see this as some kind of ‘woke’ gesture – it’s got nothing to do with that,” he said. “She is one of our most outstanding journalists. She’s been Deputy Editor for four years, she’s been tested in all sorts of areas, and that’s why she’s the next Editor.”

Nikkei executives and Editorial Director Robert Shrimsley were key figures in the leadership succession process, with the decision ultimately coming down to Nikkei Chairman and long-time media executive Tsuneo Kita.

Originally from Beirut, Lebanon, and educated in the U.S. at Syracuse University and Columbia University, Khalaf joined the FT as North Africa Correspondent, later becoming Middle East Correspondent, then Middle East Editor. Prior to joining the esteemed financial media daily, she was a staff writer for Forbes magazine in New York. It was there that she famously penned the article exposing the misdeeds of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, the subject of the 2013 Martin Scorsese film “The Wolf of Wall Street.” She wrote a follow-up for The Financial Times in 2014.

Khalaf’s soon-to-be predecessor, Barber, has been with the FT since 1985. Contending with industry disruption and decline in the digital age, a familiar story to any media executive, Barber led the newspaper through its transition to a business model focused on circulation revenue during his tenure.

The FT was one of the first legacy media news organizations to put up a paywall, in 2007, according to The New York Times. For Barber, it was a leadership decision with a dual purpose. “We said, ‘We’re going to charge for content,’” he said. “By saying that, and also raising prices, that was a message to the outside market that we’re worth it. But it was also an incredibly powerful message to the newsroom: ‘Now we’re really going to have to be the very best.’”

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