"Cantankerous Commentator" Investors Lose a Great Hero...

10/04/2007 12:00 am EST


James Michaels

Group Vice President-Editorial and Editor Emeritus, Forbes, Inc.

James W. Michaels inspired greatness and forced us to focus on what matters most.

Numerous and well-deserved accolades are being written about Jim Michaels by the owners, editors, and at least one alumni of the great media leader which he was instrumental in creating: Forbes (see links below). For us at MoneyShow.com it is the saddest of passings. Michaels (who died Tuesday at 86 of pneumonia) undoubtedly touched hundreds of today's great editorial writers and economic thinkers. Throughout his brilliant career he transformed how we think about business journalism-while empowering the individual investor with exactly what we needed to navigate the tribulations of these past four decades. Michaels found a much more primitive financial world when he started at Forbes. In a classic sense, he saw a need and filled it: richer sophistication through access to investment and economic insight-which unshackled readers from Wall Street's monolithic form. Michaels' days will forever be remembered shepherding the odyssey of the investor of the 1960s (starved of access and good ideas)-into the modern day investor with cheap, unlimited, and instantaneous command of the same tools and worldwide markets as the largest institutions. Philosophically, this fits perfectly because no one's faith in free markets is stronger than Michaels'.

Like all of history's greats, Michaels was perfectionist. The force was with him and everyone he worked beside (see our friend Peter Brimelow's Brilliant Editor of Forbes Was a Paradoxical, Ruthless Leader). One of the lucky ones, he did enjoy legendary status in the financial world while alive (see Steve, Bob, Kip and Tim Forbes ). Matt Walsh, one of Florida's more successful regional publishers regales us with Michaelsesque tales of discipline that made him. Still more chapters are told by MoneyShow.com editor-in-chief Howard Gold and Barron's editor, Ed Finn-in the super-achiever-groomed-by-Michaels story-just like Brimelow and The Editors

To be sure, Michaels' role is in that rarified league of economic and business journalism transformational torchbearers with Milton Freedman, Louis Rukeyser, Harry Browne, Harry Schultz, and Ayn Rand. Iconoclastic cover stories repeatedly challenged and near single-handedly corrected regressive fallacies: artwork depicting F.A. Hayek's classic critique of creeping socialism: The Road to Serfdom. I am certain he is smiling now as he admires how the Internet continues its democratization of investing such as the rich resources on all these Web sites, Forbes on Fox, the Forbes newsletters, and all the conferences. With his lovely widow Jean and many other family and friends-Kim and I will bid farewell to a giant among men in New York next week.

Article Written by Charles E. Githler

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