John Temple Lang interrupted me during my first speaking engagement on behalf of the Commission. I was at an IBA conference in Cannes, presenting a draft notice on antitrust and telecoms which I’d been mostly responsible for writing. 

This was in the late 90s when telecoms work was probably at its height. I was speaking to an audience of competition and telecoms lawyers, mostly partners, including some from the firm where I’d qualified just two years earlier. I was terrified.

I hadn’t eaten the night before, and hadn’t slept much. I ordered room service breakfast and the smell of the scrambled eggs had me dashing to the bathroom before I’d taken one bite.

I don’t remember the speech, which is probably for the best. But I do remember one of the questions.

Martin Cave asked about a paragraph on predation: “I don’t think I understand it, and if I do understand it, I don’t agree with it.” (That sounds tough written down; in person, he was – as usual – utterly charming.)

But I struggled to answer.

John was my Director at the time; he was in the audience because he was speaking later that day at the conference.

He stood up and made clear that he had authored that paragraph, that any problem with it was on him, and that it was still open for discussion.

He didn’t have to do that, and I know many Commission officials who would have kept their heads down. That wasn’t his style. He had strong opinions, and was always ready to stand up for them.

John died a few days ago, at the age of 85, after a long career in public service and private practice.

We disagreed often but he never held that against me. Quite the opposite; I think he relished the debate.

He was a prolific scholar, but more than that he was a true gentleman.,5&q=John+temple+lang

May he rest in peace.