Thursday, February 26

Canterbury Cathedral And Batstone

The Cantebury Cathedral, pictured, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England; not surprisingly, it is also a World Heritage Site. I have lunch Tuesday with Batstone - and indeed, he calls me "Orenstein" when we greet. Batstone is very English and very traditional media - he spent eight years at Carlton Television and seven at The Economist where he was a Director of Business Strategy. He is changing with the times, however, having become a principal and operator in, which takes newspaper obituaries and weddings and hosts them via their network. Batstone and I met during the go-go years also known as Web 1.0 and remained friendly during the fall-out afterwards. I think we appreciate our peculiarities or at least differences (at least this what I appreciate about him). He once informed me, matter of factly as I awaited my British passport, that being English meant three things: A) how to carve a roast; B) mix a proper spirit; and C) to tie a bow-tie. Whilst drunk. Every February since 2003 we reunion over lunch, paid for by the loser of a bet. The wager is set one-year in advance and usually media related - past positions have been: Amazon still be around (2003); Google valued at 50% (2004); David Montgomery discredited or in jail (2005); Alistair Darling to back-down on the £25,000 non-dom tax (2008). Usually we go to spiffy media celeb spots like Christopher's or J Sheekey; this year St John's which unfortunate as I suffer food poisoning the night-before. But this for another time. Batstone and I consider the demise of newspapers and surprisingly the Economist flourishes - its circulation is flat or even up in these down-times and they retain their advertising rate. He notes that in today's global aggressive political environment "The Economist is really what people after" and I have to agree. Sadly, looking for a photo of Batstone, I find the 1996 obituary of his wife Susan Gautier Smith who died during their first year of marriage. She was a television producer who worked with many of Britain's best comedians. She was 33. How could I not know this?

The 2009 Bet: If Britain in the bottom three of the G7 I win; if top-three, Batsone wins. If Britain in the middle - a draw

Gentleman's bet #1: Batstone predicts Sky subscribers increase 5%
Gentleman's bet #2: I predict rioting in Britain due to recession and everything else