Richard C. Morais: “I joined Forbes in 1984, when I was 23, a lowly grunt of a reporter fact-checking senior editors’ stories when the magazine was closing. It was a pretty intoxicating time to be young in New York and working at Forbes. The Reagan and Thatcher revolutions were getting into full swing, and publisher, Malcolm Forbes, and editor, James W. Michaels, were seriously shaking things up in the traditionally staid world of business journalism.
The long halls at the Forbes building at 60 Fifth Avenue were filled with genuinely eccentric reporters: the perennially swearing, Allan Sloan; the cigar-chomping Howard Rudnitsky, frequently disappearing as his five-feet high stacks of annual reports, 10-Ks, and 13Ds suddenly collapsed over his desk; the restless Allan Dodds Frank, jetting off to the Netherland Antilles to track down another “scumbag;” Dick Stern, always chatty, roaming the halls in search of the latest Wall Street gossip. All were working tirelessly at exposing the workings of colorful financiers like Mike Milken, Robert Brennan, and Ivan Boesky – and championing free market capitalism.
My personal role model at Forbes, during those formative years, was the quiet and gentlemanly Jim Cook. Unfailingly polite and fair, with protruding ears that a bat would covet, Jim was so nervous during interviews that he stuttered. He was totally unthreatening – which made him one of Forbes’ best investigative journalists.
Watching this mild-mannered fellow unravel how the mob controlled the garbage industry, how the energy industry squandered billions on nuclear power plants, how pornographers made their money – it was an apprenticeship far better than anything to be found at Columbia School of Journalism. Jim was also a kindred soul who loved literature. He eventually retired to write novels.
It was time to go out into the world. In 1986, I convinced Forbes it was in their enlightened self-interest to send me to London. Shortly after I arrived in the London bureau, located in The Economist building on St. James’s Street, the warring senior writer and bureau chief, who couldn’t stand each other, both left the company in a huff.
I was 26, very green, and suddenly Forbes’ “European bureau.” What followed was a rather unpleasant baptism by fire, a stressful period that nonetheless turned me into a serious journalist and writer. I briefly left Forbes, when I was 28, to write a Pierre Cardin biography in Paris for Bantam Books, but the initially furious Jim Michaels eventually asked me to come back. When Steve Forbes took over after his father’s death, I found my journalistic voice under the watchful eye of Jim Michaels, Jean Briggs, and Tim Ferguson. They let my imagination fly and got me to stretch myself. The perfect bosses. I returned to the U.S., after 17 years in Europe, in late 2003.
Forbes – the family, the institution, the hard-working staff – provided me with the wherewithal to raise a family. It gave me license to think and scribble and rove the globe looking for stories. It enriched my life. And for that Forbes has my eternal gratitude and deepest respect. I wish them well.
But now, wiser from my worldly experience at Forbes, it is time for me to return to what was always my true calling – the large, life-affirming and deeply satisfying canvas of fiction.”