Peston is from a Jewish family and is the son of Lord Peston, an economist and Labour life peer, and Helen Conroy. As the son of a life baron, he is entitled to the courtesy title "The Honourable", but does not use it. Peston attended Highgate Wood Secondary School, in Crouch End, North London, graduated from Balliol College, Oxford, and then studied at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.
Peston briefly worked as a stockbroker at Williams de Broë, becoming a journalist in 1983 at the Investors Chronicle and joining The Independent newspaper on its launch in 1986. From 1989 to 1990, Peston worked for the short-lived Sunday Correspondent newspaper as Deputy City Editor, before being appointed City Editor of the Independent on Sunday in 1990.
From 1991 to 2000, he worked for the Financial Times. At the FT, he was – at various times – Political Editor, Banking Editor and head of an investigations unit (which he founded). During his time as Political Editor, he memorably fell out with the then Downing Street Press Secretary Alastair Campbell, who regularly mimicked Peston's habit of flicking back his hair, and once responded to a difficult question with the words: "Another question from the Peston school of smartarse journalism." He became close friends with fellow journalist, now PR man, Roland Rudd, where the two were known as the "Pest and the Rat". His last position at the FT was Financial Editor (in charge of business and financial coverage).
In 2000, he became editorial director of the online financial analysis service Quest, owned by the financial firm Collins Stewart. At the same time, he became a contributing editor of The Spectator and a weekly columnist for The Daily Telegraph. In 2001, he switched allegiance from the Telegraph to the Sunday Times, where he wrote a weekly business profile, Peston's People, and left The Spectator for the New Statesman, where he wrote a weekly column. In 2002, he joined The Sunday Telegraph as City editor and assistant editor. He became associate editor in 2005.
In late 2005, it was announced that Peston would succeed Jeff Randall as BBC Business Editor, responsible for business and City coverage on the corporation's flagship TV and radio news programmes, the BBC News Channel, its website and on Radio 4's Today.
While no impropriety on the part of Peston was implied, it was claimed in The Observer on 19 October 2008, that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) could enquire into the source of one of Peston's scoops which, in September 2008, in the fraught atmosphere of the global financial crisis, revealed that merger talks between HBOS and Lloyds TSB were at an advanced stage. In the minutes before the broadcast, buyers purchased millions of HBOS shares at the deflated price of 96p; in the hour following it, they could be sold for 215p. The Conservative MP Greg Hands had written to the SFO about this.
On 4 February 2009, Peston appeared as a witness at the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, along with Alex Brummer (City Editor, Daily Mail), Lionel Barber (editor of the Financial Times), Sir Simon Jenkins (The Guardian) and Sky News Business Editor Jeff Randall to answer questions on the role of the media in financial stability and "whether financial journalists should operate under any form of reporting restrictions during banking crises."
On 28 August 2009, Peston had a highly publicised row with James Murdoch, following the latter's MacTaggart lecture. More recently, he has repeatedly broken stories relating to News International's involvement with phone hacking at times which were perceived as advantageous to the company, leading to criticisms that he has become a Murdoch stooge.
Peston is the founder of Speakers for Schools, a pro-bono education venture which organises speakers from the worlds of business, politics, media, the arts, science, engineering and sports to give talks for free in state schools.
On 17 October 2013, Peston was appointed Economics Editor of BBC News, replacing Stephanie Flanders who was appointed as Chief Market Strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management. He continued as Business Editor, as well until his replacement Kamal Ahmed took over the post on 24 March 2014.
On 4 October 2015, it was announced that Peston would leave the BBC to join ITV News as their Political Editor, replacing Tom Bradby who became the main presenter of News at Ten. Peston made his last appearance on BBC News on 25 November 2015, and his first appearance on ITV's News at Ten on 11 January 2016. He had a significant scoop in April 2016, when Prime Minister David Cameron stated in an interview he had profited from his father's offshore Blairmore Holdings trust, after information about the trust had been disclosed in the Panama Papers release.
He presents ITV's new weekly political discussion show, Peston on Sunday, which started on 8 May 2016.
Peston has won the Harold Wincott Senior Financial Journalist of the Year Award (2005), the London Press Club's Scoop of the Year Award (2005), Granada Television's What the Papers Say award for Investigative Journalist of the Year (1994) and the Wincott Young Financial Journalist of the Year (1986).
At the Royal Television Society's Television Journalism Awards 2008/09 Peston won both "Specialist Journalist of the Year" and "Television Journalist of the Year" for his coverage of the credit crunch and a string of 'scoops' associated with it. Also, his scoop on Lloyds TSB's takeover of HBOS won the Royal Television Society's "Scoop of the Year" award. He was voted Best Performer in a Non-Acting Role in the Broadcasting Press Guild's 2009 awards and Business Journalist of the Year in the London Press Club's 2009 awards. In the 2008 Wincott Awards, he won the Broadcaster of the Year Award and he won the online award for his blog.
In 2009, he was named Political Journalist of the Year in the Political Studies Association Awards, and he topped polls of the general public and journalists carried out by Press Gazette to find the highest rated finance and business journalist.
Peston's scoop on Northern Rock seeking emergency financial help from the Bank of England won the Royal Television Society's Television Journalism Award for Scoop of the Year in the 2007/8 awards and the Wincott Award for Business News/Current Affairs Programme of the Year. He was Journalist of the Year in the Business Journalism of the Year Awards for 2007/08, and also won in the Scoop category.
Peston won the Work Foundation's Broadcast News Journalism Award and the Foundation's Radio Programme of the Year Award (for his File on 4, "The Inside Story of Northern Rock"). His blog won the digital media category in the Private Equity and Venture Capital Journalist of the Year Awards.
Peston received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 2010. In 2011, he was honoured as a Fellow of Aberystwyth University in recognition of "his success in journalism, his insightful writing and his contribution to the local community".
Peston's delivery on radio and television news has attracted comment. Tim Teeman in The Times described his "intonation" as "raggedy [and] querulous" in 2008, and Ann Treneman described Peston as "excruciatingly hard to listen to" in 2009. The Daily Telegraph identifies "strangulated diction" and "repetition of small words" among his traits; in the same article, maintaining he is "loads better than [he] was", Peston himself conceded he is "still not as polished as some". His characteristic mannerisms have been observed by impressionist Rory Bremner. Peston has stated "I am not going to endeavour to become somebody hugely smooth and polished."
Peston published his biography of Gordon Brown Brown's Britain in January 2005. It details the rivalry between Brown and the then Prime Minister Tony Blair. Brown's Britain was described by Sir Howard Davies, former director of the London School of Economics, as "a book of unusual political significance". The cover of the book describes how "Peston was given unprecedented access to Gordon Brown and his friends and colleagues." Having told Brown's side of the Blair/Brown power struggle, it is believed that Peston has used the relationship then built up with Brown for many of his later financial news story "scoops" at the BBC.
In February 2008, Hodder & Stoughton published Peston's book Who Runs Britain? How the Super-Rich are Changing our Lives. In The Guardian, Polly Toynbee said of it: "Reading Peston's book, you can only be flabbergasted all over again at how Labour kowtowed to wealth, glorified the City and put all the nation's economic eggs into one dangerous basket of fizzy finance."
His latest book How Do We Fix This Mess? The Economic Price of Having it All and the Route to Lasting Prosperity was published by Hodder & Stoughton in September 2012. The Observer described it as "A must read...mandatory reading for anyone who wants to have a voice in where we go from here".
Peston married the writer Siân Busby in 1998, with whom he had a son, Maximilian. Peston and Busby had known each other since their teens, and only rekindled their relationship after her friend, Peston's sister Juliet, was hospitalised after a road accident. In the meantime, Busby had married and been divorced from the Dutch film maker Kees Ryninks, with whom she also had a son, Simon. Busby died in September 2012 from lung cancer, after a long illness.
He lives in Muswell Hill, north London. After a domestic burglary in December 2012, Peston made an appeal for the return of rings that had belonged to his late wife. Peston said: "It's an incredibly distressing time, especially so soon after losing Sian. It's not about the monetary value, it's about the sentimental value. The rings are irreplaceable and they mean a lot to me."
Peston has described himself as "culturally Jewish" and "a secular Jew"; his family is of Jewish descent. He supports Arsenal.Robert James Kenneth Peston (1960–87)
The Honourable Robert James Kenneth Peston (1987–)