LIVE: Tom Bower opens Journalism Week with tales of Ecclestone, Branson and Gordon Brown



By Henry Valantine

Tom Bower has established himself as one of Britain’s leading investigative journalists and historians, and told a packed audience at Leeds Trinity Journalism Week that scepticism has led him to where he is today, and encourages young journalists to hold power to account.

Having published over 20 books and made over 200 documentaries for the BBC, he knows what he wants when he starts a new project, saying: “I choose a subject that I find interesting, that there is something to uncover.”

Tom wowed the audience with a story of how he uncovered supposed fraudulent activity by businessman Richard Branson, including aspects of his taxes and his shareholders.

Having been sued twice by the founder of the Virgin group, Tom stressed the importance of distilling the truth from lies journalists can be told when out on the job.

He said: “One of the most interesting things in journalism is that they (interviewees) have an agenda. They don’t want to meet you because they love you, they meet you because they have something to say about someone else.

“The role of the journalist is very important in all of this, and that is to tell the story. The way you tell your story is to write it with a narrative with a climax, it has to have a build-up, it has to be paced.”

He added: “Branson vs Bower is one of the cornerstones of libel law. I won, he lost, and that proves that journalists are right!”

Tom told how one of his subjects was the F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.

“When I got more and more into the sport I got a call from Bernie Ecclestone asking me to come to lunch,” Tom told the audience.

“I told him I don’t do authorised books. You won’t read it before it gets published. If I discover you are a crook it will go into the book.”

Ecclestone told Tom: “I’m no angel!” – and that became the name of the book.

Tom is an investigative historian, TV producer who worked on the flagship investigative TV programme Panorama.   He has written unauthorised biographies of Gordon Brown, Robert Maxwell, Richard Branson and Mohamed Al-Fayed, among other top people.

In 2012, the X Factor judge Simon Cowell was the subject of his unauthorised biography Sweet Revenge: The Intimate Life of Simon Cowell.




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