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Forbes, Malcolm

Malcolm Forbes

Born: August 19, 1919
New York, New York
Died: February 24, 1990
Far Hills, New Jersey

American publisher

Millionaire Malcolm Forbes was the publisher of Forbes magazine from 1957 to 1990. He was a man known for his business sense and his lavish lifestyle.

The young Malcolm

Malcolm Stevenson Forbes was born on August 19, 1919, in Brooklyn, New York, to B. C. (Bertie) Forbes and Adelaide Stevenson Forbes. He was one of five children who grew up in an upper-middle-class family in Englewood, New Jersey. His interest in publications developed early as he wrote and printed a household newspaper when he was eight years old. At the age of thirteen he obtained his first printing press and by the age of fifteen he had published papers for his household, the scouts, and school. He would spend time in the summers working at the Forbes magazine offices, which his father founded. He attended the private schools in Tarrytown, New York, and graduated with honors from Lawrenceville School, in New Jersey, in 1937. He continued his education at Princeton University, where he majored in political science.

Inherited wealth

A savvy businessman by all accounts, Forbes inherited his wealth from his father who established him at the Fairfield Times newspaper as owner and publisher only days after his graduation from Princeton. As he was fond of saying, he was loaded with "sheer ability, spelled i-n-h-e-r-i-t-a-n-c-e," as quoted in Forbes. He went on to publish the Lancaster Tribune in 1942, and four years later, after a stint in the army on the European front of World War II (193945; a war in which England, China, the Soviet Union, and from 1941 the United States, fought against and defeated the forces of Germany, Italy, and Japan) he joined the staff at Forbes magazine. He was first an associate publisher, then publisher, editor, editor in chief, vice president, and, finally, president. As a politician, Forbes was less than successful; he said that he was "nosed out by a landslide" in a New Jersey race for governor in 1957.

Lavish lifestyle

Forbes did not like to put an actual figure on his income and holdings, though he published practically everybody else's value. Early in 1990, the New York Post estimated Forbes's holdings by totaling up his collections, houses, and publications, but as Time magazine reported it, the estimates were generous; "Malcolm is a billionaire, but only if you swallow an estimate of $65 million for his flagship magazine's annual profits." People magazine listed eight houses, a palace in Tangier, Morocco, a chateau in Normandy, France, and the island of Lauthala in Fiji as his dwellings.

Forbes is characterized as a man who loved the spotlight, who shamelessly enjoyed the privileges his money afforded him, and who was always in pursuit of adventure. Forbes was a balloonist, a motorcyclist, and a sailor who took many trips on his huge yacht, the Highlander. He collected anything precious and beautifulmost famously, Faberge eggs.

Forbes was married for thirty-nine years to Roberta Remsen Laidlaw before their divorce in 1985. The couple had five children: Malcolm S. Jr., Robert Laidlaw, Christopher Charles, Timothy Carter, and Moira Hamilton. Malcolm S. Jr., known as Steve, ran for president in 1996.

Although not an obvious charitable contributor, Forbes did give millions of dollars each year to charities. He had been at a charity bridge tournament the day he died of a heart attack on February 24, 1990. "Malcolm Forbes was a giant of American business," said then-President George Bush (1924), as quoted in Forbes: "His success in publishing reflected the tremendous vitality of our nation and served to inform and inspire a generation of successful business leaders. He was greatly admired and will be greatly missed." Former president Ronald Reagan offered a similar tribute: "Malcolm was truly a dear friend and we will miss him sorely. We hold our memories of him close to our hearts and are thankful to have known him."

For More Information

Forbes, Malcolm S., and Jeff Bloch. They Went That-A-Way. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.

Winans, Christopher. Malcolm Forbes: The Man Who Had Everything. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.

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Forbes, Malcolm Stevenson

FORBES, MALCOLM STEVENSON


Millionaire Malcolm Forbes (19191990), the publisher of Forbes magazine from 1957 to 1990, converted a business publication his father started into one of the most influential in the United States. The younger Forbes' exuberant lifestyle, combining business and pleasure, and his unabashed enjoyment of his wealth, made him a singular personality in the normally staid business community.

Forbes inherited his wealth from his father, who established his son as owner and publisher at the Fairfield Times, a weekly newspaper in Lancaster, Ohio, only days after his graduation from Princeton University. In later life he was fond of saying that he had been loaded with "sheer ability (spelled i-n-h-e-ri-t-a-n-c-e)." That quip belied his real talent and ability. At Princeton he was awarded the Class of 1901 Medal as a member of the class of 1941 who "contributed the most to Princeton as an undergraduate."

Forbes was also a genuine war hero of World War II (19391945) who was wounded in combat and received both the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service as an infantry staff sergeant of a heavy machine gun section serving in France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany. Following his discharge from the Army in 1945 he joined Forbes magazine. He successively held positions as associate publisher, publisher, editor, editor-in-chief, vice president, and president.

During the 1950s Forbes was also active in politics. In 1951 he was elected to the New Jersey State Senate; in 1957the year he became editor-in-chief and publisher of Forbes he made an unsuccessful run for the New Jersey governorship. In 1964 he took over the family business as president of Forbes, Inc.

According to Advertising Age, Forbes "expanded the magazine his father created in 1917 into a publishing powerhousewhether measured in circulation, advertising revenue, or the trepidation with which CEOs awaited stories about their companies." With a circulation of 750,000 copies (of which 250,000 were reported as sold to millionaires), Forbes became one of the most influential and successful business magazines in the United States. In the early 1960s the publication's advertising revenues stood at nearly $2 million; at the time of Forbes's death this expense was well beyond $150 million. Forbes's own net worth, which he never included in his magazine's annual list of the nation's four hundred richest citizens, was estimated between $400 million and $1 billion.

Forbes's lavish lifestyle and charismatic personality were central to the success of his company. His well-publicized hobbies and interests included his no-table collection of Faberge eggs, expensive motorcycles, and opulent retreats in France, Tangiers, and Fiji, as well as a Colorado ranch and a New Jersey estate. He used his lavish parties, ballooning adventures, and trips on his luxurious yacht Highlander to woo advertisers and top executives. "On the Highlander, we entertain anywhere from thirty to fifty CEOs and their wives," he said in a 1989 interview in Forbes. "The event is the medium's message bearer. Nobody makes a direct pitch. It's a group sell, but the real selling is done oneon-one when the salesman with the account calls on the agency media buyers, and the account executives and the higher men in the hierarchy call on the directors."

All the publicity about Forbes' lifestyle masked his hard work and dedication to the magazine. He was usually in his office by six a.m. "It's fun to be at your desk when you're the boss," he said in the same Forbes interview. "You can't be successful if you don't love what you're doing. Whatever really turns you on does it. Psychic income is what real income is used for anyway." Malcolm Forbes died in 1990.

See also: Publishing Industry


FURTHER READING

Buckley, William F. "Malcom Forbes, RIP." National Review, March 19, 1990.

Current Biography 1975. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1975, s.v. "Forbes, Malcolm Stevenson."

Gschwandtner, Gerhard and L.S. Gschwandtner. "Selling with Style, Wit and Class." Forbes, July 24, 1989.

"Malcom Forbes: He Practiced What He Preached." Forbes, April 30, 1990.

Pearl, Jayne. "The Forbes Mystique." Forbes, October 22, 1990.

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Malcolm Forbes

Malcolm Forbes

Millionaire Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990) was the publisher of Forbes magazine from 1957 to 1990.

The entire world knew how old Malcolm Forbes was when he died in 1990; extensive press coverage of his lavish 70th (and last) birthday party thrown in Morocco in September of 1989 insured that everyone who had not been invited would know what they had missed. Characterized as a man who loved the spotlight, who shamelessly enjoyed the privileges his money afforded him, and who was always in pursuit of adventure, Forbes was a balloonist, a motorcyclist, and a sailor who took many trips on his huge yacht, the "Highlander." He collected anything precious and beautiful, most famously, Faberge eggs. His son Robert was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as emphasizing Forbes's playful nature in a eulogy: "He was so many things to so many of us. Boss, bon vivant, raconteur, balloonist, columnist, happiest millionaire, leader of the pack … source, mentor, friend, super this, mega that, father, grandfather, father-in-law, uncle, cousin and sparkling, naughty boy." Also ex-husband, as his wife of 39 years, Roberta Remsen Laidlaw, had divorced him in 1985. As Malcolm, Jr., explained in Forbes, his parents still loved each other but could no longer live together. Forbes was often seen in the company of movie star Elizabeth Taylor, and the two answered speculation about an impending marriage by saying that they were merely good friends.

Inherited Wealth

A savvy businessman by all accounts, Forbes inherited his wealth from his father, B.C.(Bertie) Forbes, who established him at the Fairfield Times newspaper as owner and publisher only days after his graduation from Princeton. As he was fond of saying, he was loaded with "sheer ability, spelled i-n-h-e-r-i-t-a-n-c-e," as quoted in Forbes. He went on to publish the Lancaster Tribune in 1942, and four years later, after a stint in the Army on the European front of World War II, he joined the staff at Forbes magazine. He was first an associate publisher, then publisher, editor, editor-in-chief, vice-president, and, finally, president. As a politician, Forbes was less than successful; he said that he was "nosed out by a landslide" in a New Jersey race for governor in 1957.

Lavish Lifestyle

Forbes was loath to put a real figure to his income and holdings, though he published practically everybody else's value. Early in 1990, the New York Post estimated Forbes's holdings by toting up his collections, houses, and publications, but as Time magazine reported it, the estimates were generous; "Malcolm is a billionaire, but only if you swallow an estimate of $65 million for his flagship magazine's annual profits." People magazine lists eight houses, a palace in Tangier, Morocco, a chateau in Normandy and the island of Lauthala in Fiji as his dwellings. His famous birthday party was held in Tangier, and aroused the disgust of many outsiders who found the display gratuitously expensive. Forbes added some fuel to the flames by suggesting that the party be tax-deductible, as it was for business purposes. His company, Forbes Inc., actually did pay for the party, just as it would pay for any publicity campaign. Forbes's flamboyant consumerism served the firm well, and his enthusiastic spending habits earned him the nickname "the happiest millionaire." Although not as obviously a philanthropist, Forbes gave millions of dollars each year to charities, and had been at a charity bridge tournament the day he died. "Malcolm Forbes was a giant of American business," said then President George Bush, as quoted in Forbes. "His success in publishing reflected the tremendous vitality of our nation and served to inform and inspire a generation of successful business leaders. He was greatly admired and will be greatly missed." Former president Ronald Reagan offered a similar tribute: "Malcolm was truly a dear friend and we will miss him sorely. We hold our memories of him close to our hearts and are thankful to have known him." □

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Forbes, Malcolm

Malcolm Forbes, 1919–90, American publisher, b. Englewood, N.J. The third son of a Scottish immigrant who founded Forbes magazine in 1917, he graduated from Princeton (1941), and became publisher of the magazine on his father's death (1954). Under his leadership, the publication became one of America's most successful business magazines, with a circulation of 735,000. Forbes ran unsuccessfully for governor of New Jersey (1957) and used his magazine and numerous books to praise the virtues of laissez-faire capitalism. He was worth at least $400 million at his death.

See A. Jones, Malcolm Forbes (1977); C. Winans, The Man Who Had Everything (1990).

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Forbes, Malcolm

Forbes, Malcolm

(1919-1990)
Forbes Business Magazine

Overview

Malcolm Stevenson Forbes was one of the foremost publishers and business moguls in the United States. From 1957 until his death in 1990, he was publisher, editor-in-chief, and sole stockholder of the magazine his father founded. By 1982, Forbes magazine grossed over $10 million annually. He converted the business publication his father had started into one of the most influential magazines in America. His mix of business and pleasure, and the spirited way in which he flaunted his wealth, became a trademark of both his personal and professional life.

Personal Life

Malcolm Forbes was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 19, 1919. He was the third son of B.C. (Bertie Charles) Forbes, a Scottish immigrant and founder of Forbes magazine and Adelaine Stevenson Forbes. He inherited his wealth from his father, who established him at the Fairfield Times newspaper in Lancaster, Ohio, as owner and publisher only days after his graduation from Princeton University in 1941. He went on to publish the Lancaster Tribune in 1942. That same year, Forbes joined the U.S. Army, serving on the European front during World War II. His wartime actions earned him the position of staff sergeant, and earned him the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. In 1946, when he was released from military duty, he joined the staff at Forbes magazine.

Forbes married Roberta Remsen Laidlaw in 1946. Their union produced five children: Malcolm S., Jr., Robert Laidlaw, Christopher Charles, Timothy Carter, and Moira Hamilton. Malcolm, Jr. took over the magazine upon his father's death in 1990 and ran for the presidency of the United States in 1996. In 1985, Malcolm Forbes, Sr. and his wife, Roberta, divorced. As Steve explained in Forbes, his parents, "still loved each other, but could no longer live together."

If only a few could remember Malcolm Forbes' birth, millions of people knew how old he was when he died. Extensive press coverage of the lavish 70th birthday party he hosted for himself in Morocco in September 1989 ensured that. The list of celebrities read like a who's who of Hollywood, politicians, and European royalty. Television and newspapers carried the minute details across the world, including the menu and entertainment. In 1983 in People magazine, Arthur Lubow commented, "Not since antitrust spoilsports put the kibosh on the Gilded Age has an American capitalist reveled so openly in the pleasures that money can buy."

What made Forbes endearing to the American public, perhaps, was this sheer enjoyment of life. He was characterized as a man who loved the spotlight. It was said that he shamelessly enjoyed the privileges his money afforded him. Yet, Forbes demonstrated time and again, that he was as ordinary as any average American. In his book, Fact and Comment, he told a story about himself, from 1966, that could have struck anyone as familiar. He begins, "The other day I learned something that I guess housewives learn early in life. It was a wallet-walloping experience. Don't go supermarket shopping when hungry. Recently, a fabulous new A&P opened up near home, and I went down around noon Saturday to pick up two wee, needed items." As he goes on to tell, he was enticed in every aisle by everything from endive to clams to ice cream and bakery items. "The $2 mission turned into a $49.12 extravaganza," he says. Even for all of his wealth, he had the ability to be candid in times of folly. He had a sense of humor about himself. Americans appreciated that and showed that appreciation by buying his magazine and reading his books.

Forbes was always in pursuit of adventure. He was a balloonist, a motorcyclist, and a sailor who took many trips on his huge yacht, the 'Highlander." He was a noted art collector, particularly of Faberge eggs. The Chicago Tribune reported that Robert, Forbes' second eldest son, eulogized his father by emphasizing his playful nature: "He was so many things to so many of us. Boss, confidante, raconteur, balloonist, columnist, happiest millionaire, leader of the pack, source, mentor, friend, super this, mega that, father, grandfather, father-in-law, uncle, cousin, and sparkling naughty boy."

Malcolm Forbes enjoyed the well-earned nickname of, "the happiest millionaire," up until the time he died of a sudden heart attack on February 24, 1990. Forbes' philanthropy was not as well publicized as his spending. He gave millions of dollars each year to charities, and had been at a charity Bridge tournament the day he died. Malcolm Forbes even surprised his 750 staffers a week after his death in one last, grand act of kindness and generosity. In his will he left them all an extra week's pay and had forgiven all loans, up to $10,000, paid to any company employee. He left control of his empire in the hands of his son, Steve.

Malcolm Forbes may have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but instead of tarnishing it or losing it, he turned it into gold and made it shine. According to Advertising Age, "He expanded the magazine his father created in 1917 into a publishing powerhouse whether measured in circulation, advertising revenue, or the trepidation with which CEOs awaited stories about their companies." With a circulation of 735,000, Forbes had doubtless become one of the top business magazines in America. In the early-1960s, the publication's annual advertising revenues stood at nearly $2 million and by the time of Malcolm Forbes' death, had risen beyond $150 million. When it comes to citing wealth in the United States, many continue to turn to the magazine's annual listing of the 400 wealthiest Americans. Forbes also published the magazines, Egg, devoted to collectors; and, American Heritage,a magazine of American history that has been well-respected in the education of American students for decades.

Forbes's lavish lifestyle and charismatic aggressiveness were more than personality traits, they were a driving force behind his empire. While business orthodoxy shunned mixing business and pleasure, this mix became Forbes' trademark. He made a point of knowing the movers and the shakers of the business world that his magazine covered. In later years, when his magazine wanted a company to advertise, he could pick up the telephone and call the chief executive officer of the company directly.

Chronology: Malcolm Forbes

1919: Born.

1941: Earned his B.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University.

1941: Established as owner and publisher of the Fairfield Times weekly newspaper, Lancaster, Ohio.

1942: Joined U.S. Army and rose to rank of staff sergeant, earning a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

1946: Joined Forbes magazine as associate publisher.

1946: Married Roberta Remsen Laidlaw.

1948: Founded Nation's Heritage a bimonthly historical magazine.

1949: Awarded Freedom Foundation Medal.

1957: Waged an unsuccessful bid for governor of New Jersey.

1957: Became publisher of Forbes magazine.

1985: Divorced Roberta Remsen Laidlaw.

1989: Hosted lavish, widely publicized birthday party for himself in Morocco.

1990: Died.

Career Details

A savvy businessman by all accounts, Forbes inherited his wealth from his father. As quoted in Forbes, he was fond of saying that he was loaded with "sheer ability, spelled i-n-h-e-r-i-t-a-n-c-e." Upon joining his father's magazine after World War II, Forbes took the position of associate publisher. He eventually moved on to the posts of publisher, editor, editor-in-chief, vice-president, and, finally, CEO and president. As a politician, Forbes was less than successful. In his bid for Governor of New Jersey in 1957, Forbes said that he was "nosed out by a landslide."

Social and Economic Impact

Malcolm Forbes had a great impact on the success of his family's namesake magazine, an impact not lost on his family. "My father recognized that although the magazine was very strong editorially, it wasn't going to sell unless he went out and brought it to people's attention," his heir Steve Forbes told Forbes, the magazine he now runs. "He pulled out all the stops...his early marketing activities sound rather mundane today, but they worked for us for a number of years: an advertising campaign in major papers and trade press; luncheons with CEOs at the townhouse adjacent to our offices, that was something he perfected. He also entertained corporate and political chiefs and foreign dignitaries on our boat, the Highlander. In the mid-Sixties, when he started collecting Faberge eggs, he linked them with Forbes magazine in an ad campaign as a symbol of quality."

"He practiced something that most CEOs find very hard to practice," recalls Steve Forbes, "and that is letting people make mistakes, but in a way that they can learn, rather than be destroyed."

Sources of Information

Bibliography

Columbia Encyclopedia 5th ed., s.v. "Forbes, Malcom."

Forbes, Malcolm S. Fact & Comment. New York: Knopf, 1974.

Lubow, Arthur. People, 19 July 1982.

"Malcom Forbes: He Practiced What He Preached." Forbes, 30 April 1990.

Pearl, Jayne. "The Forbes Mystique." Forbes, 22 October, 1990.

Time, 19 March 1990.

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