Magazine article The Spectator

The Worst-Behaved Man of His Time

Magazine article The Spectator

The Worst-Behaved Man of His Time

Article excerpt

AT his funeral last Friday, a recurring theme among the mourners was that much of Bruce's behaviour was an 'act', and that in reality he was a cardigan-wearing, pipesmoking home body who loved gardening and the company of his family. Probably true but, as a witness to many of his finest 'acts', I can testify that he was an extremely accomplished actor.

The anecdotes about Bruce Kinloch do not really start until after 1971 when, in his early forties, he became commercial property correspondent of the Daily Telegraph and quickly rose to become Fleet Street's most important commentator on the property business. With this importance came an element of freedom to do as he wished, as few property tycoons were willing to risk his disfavour by complaining.

An early example was the unveiling of a proposed new development, to which Bruce and a number of potential backers had been invited. After canvassing the backers, the developer then sought the views of Bruce, who, in full view of everyone, urinated on the display model.

A leading firm of estate agents once invited Bruce to a press party in their boardroom, which was adorned with portraits in oil of the firm's dear and departed senior partners. He did not like the look of some of them, so made appropriate alterations with a felt pen.

When the image-conscious developer John Ritblat was preparing the de-merger of his huge company, British Land, he held a press conference at which Bruce arrived late, holding up the proceedings (for few would have dared to start without him). When he arrived, Bruce strode straight to the front and said to Ritblat, `Hello, John, you cunt.' As everyone gasped, Ritblat leapt to his feet, shouted `Brucie!' and gave Kinloch a bear hug. When the two men had first met, for lunch in Ritblat's notoriously dry London offices, Kinloch had started shaking when offered a glass of mineral water, then began writhing uncontrollably, shouting, `I'm an epileptic. If I don't get a strong drink I'll have a fit.' Gin was fetched.

Whenever he was offered cigars after property-business lunches or dinners, he would always take a handful and stuff them into his pockets. At a Christmas party at the InterContinental hotel, given by some estate agents, someone noticed that both Bruce and the entire liqueur trolley had gone missing. He was found, after a hurried search, loading it into a black cab, helped by the driver. His excuse was that he was taking it back to his Telegraph colleagues, who could not afford Christmas drinks. On a press trip to the Mandarin hotel in Hong Kong, he ordered a screwdriver from room service and used it to unscrew antique prints from the walls, which he then packed in Mandarin towels. He was later elected to give the thank-you speech to the hotel at a drinks party laid on by the journalists (but signed off to their room bills, which the Mandarin was covering) in which he complimented everything except the towels, which were `too fluffy'. They asked what he meant and he said, truthfully, that he had only been able to fit two in his suitcase.

Bruce once persuaded a West End developer to join him for a drink in a Balls Bros wine bar, where he discovered that the developer had a private stash of fine wines. The man did not visit the City often and was not well known to the staff, so Bruce used his name and steadily drank his way through all of it. …

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