Speaker / Host
James Ashton is a leadership speaker as well as a popular event host, conference facilitator, panel curator and moderator. A former senior newspaper editor James has written extensively on the UK economy, business, leadership and technology, and interviewed hundreds of company leaders in a 20-year career.
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Read more about James Ashton
James has been lucky to have a front-row seat for many of the biggest economic and corporate stories of recent times. He was City Editor and Executive Editor at the Evening Standard and Independent titles and before that City Editor at the Sunday Times. He now writes regular columns and in-depth interviews for the Telegraph, Times and Mail on Sunday. His interviews have featured leaders of the Bank of England, Barclays, Tesco, Virgin, General Electric, Nestlé, Huawei, Anglo American and WeWork among others.
His talks offer revealing insights about the disruptive technologies, banking crises, multibillion-pound takeover battles and the personalities that shape global business. He knows what makes business leaders tick and is considered by many to be one of the most informed business speakers and hosts in the UK. As a conference facilitator, James is highly skilled at getting the best from panel speakers, ensuring a topical and pacey discussion and reacting to events.
Popular topics range from the very current to the very forward looking. James can speak on what is happening in the world right now but also examine the impact of ageing on how companies treat their workforce and customer base, what the gig economy means for career development and the impact of increased shareholder activism on how managers manage.
James was born and raised near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire and fell in love with newspapers after entering a school competition. He continued writing at the University of St Andrews where he studied English and edited the student newspaper, The Chronicle. At City University in London he took a postgraduate diploma in newspaper journalism. After work experience placements with the Yorkshire Post, the Herald in Glasgow, the South Wales Echo and a scholarship to the Daily Iowan in the United States, his first job was at Reuters, covering the advertising and media industries as the dotcom bubble prepared to burst.
James was part of the launch team for Business AM, Scotland’s first financial newspaper, working in London and Edinburgh. He gained broader experience at the Scotsman and the Daily Mail as Chief City Correspondent.
At the Sunday Times, James wrote the closely-followed Inside the City column, regularly broke stories on companies including Vodafone, HSBC and EMI and interviewed the brains behind LinkedIn, Skype and Facebook.
Appointed City Editor of the Evening Standard, James merged business desks with the Independent, Independent on Sunday and i newspaper and led the team filing across four newspapers and associated websites. He wrote widely on London’s key industries including finance, professional services and technology as well as the capital’s relationship with the rest of the UK. As Executive Editor, he edited The Progress 1000, the Evening Standard’s compilation of London’s top influencers. James has spoken at and hosted for the World Retail Congress (Madrid), Global Peter Drucker Forum (Vienna) CBI annual conference, IOD annual convention, campaign launches for Sopra Steria, EY, ABP/Royal Albert Dock, New West End Company.
James is married with one daughter and lives in south London. In his spare time he enjoys running and swimming. In memory of the son they lost in 2012, James and his wife Viveka set up Oscar’s Book Prize (oscarsbookprize.co.uk), a nationwide pre-school book award. The prize aims to champion the best in early years reading and remind parents of the importance of sharing books with their young children. Supporters include Amazon, the Evening Standard and the National Literacy Trust and the prize’s Royal patron is HRH Princess Beatrice. In promoting the prize, James can speak about the UK’s literacy challenge that sees one in three children leave primary school at the age of 11 without having reached the expected reading level.
The changing media landscape: how the drive to digital has redrawn newsrooms, monetisation and the stories that get told today.
A macroeconomic overview: what is happening in the world right now?
Leadership, technology and disruption: what chief executives fear most, the cult of the changemaker and why public markets fail to incentivise risk taking.
Tomorrow’s cities: how corporations and municipal authorities must come together to capture talent and investment and tackle transport and housing challenges.
“The session proved to be very popular with our audience and some fantastic insights came out of James’s interviews. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and media coverage was also excellent.”
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General
“When we were planning one of our key main stage interview sessions, we had no hesitation in inviting James to lead this. He brought reassurance to the interviewee’s team because they knew James and he then ensured that the fireside chat on the mainstage was engaging, informative and well-received by our delegates.”
Ian McGarrigle, Chairman, World Retail Congress
“James was a professional and engaging chair of a quite diverse panel who needed to be well managed. I was delighted with his efforts and we would definitely use him again.”
Caroline Artis, Senior London Partner, EY
Columns and interviews: