George Bull OBE 1929 - 2001

William Keegan The Financial Times Apr 9, 2001

George Bull: biographer and Renaissance Man

George Bull, director of the Anglo-Japanese Economic Institute since 1986, has died, aged 71. Bull, with Nigel Lawson and William Rees-Mogg, was one of the journalists recruited straight from Oxford by the Financial Times in the 1950s, when by-lines were few, who went on to make their names elsewhere.

Educated at Wimbledon College and Brasenose - with national service in the Royal Fusiliers in between - Bull joined the FT as a reporter in 1952, becoming foreign editor in 1956.

He is remembered as a forceful figure on the paper who certainly held his own with his more famous contemporaries. Above all, he was a driving force behind the internationalisation of the paper. The FT had been a kind of parish magazine for the City in the early 1950s and Bull was influential, for instance, in the appointment of the FT's first US correspondent, Robert Heller, in 1958.

After a brief stint as news editor of the London bureau of McGraw-Hill World News in 1959-60, Bull joined The Director, where he was successively deputy editor, editor and editor-in-chief from 1960 to 1984.

During his years as director of the Anglo-Japanese Economic Institute, he made a significant contribution to good relations between the two countries, and played his part in the popularity of Britain as a location for Japanese investment.

While at the FT, Bull wrote, with Anthony Vice, Bid for Power, a book that gave a popular explanation of the corporate takeover battles of the time.

But it is probably for his life-long devotion to Italy and the Renaissance, and his stream of highly acclaimed biographries - especially Michelangelo in 1995 - and translations of Italian classics, including Machiavelli's The Prince that he will be most remembered. This translation has sold more than a million copies.

Bull was indeed something of a Renaissance man. He was a great conversationalist, and the diversity and versatility of his activities were phenomenal.

He had a heart attack in 1997 and was fitted with a pacemaker just before last Christmas. But in addition to supervising a clutch of regular publications on Japan, Europe, central banking and intellectual thought - International Minds - at the time of his death he was working on a biography of Dante and a play, and also had plans for a novel.

A bon viveur and great Garrick club figure, Bull collapsed in full conversational flow, with a glass of wine in his hand, at home in Pimlico, London, on Friday at the beginning of one of his own dinner parties. He leaves his devoted wife Dido, two sons, two daughters, seven grandchildren and a host of very good friends.

He went out in style and a friend commented: "He will be past the pearly gates and engaging Michelangelo and Machiavelli in conversation within minutes - and they will no doubt be joined by Dante."