It seems to be all that NYC and the US blogs can talk about. The launch of the latest offering from Conde Nast, Portfolio magazine, is apparently glossy, photo-heavy and choca with ads – an unmistakable stable-mate of the likes of Vogue and Vanity Fair.
But we here at FT Alphaville don’t yet have a copy…and we feel left out.
No matter. Undeterred we’ve headed online to find this homage to glamour in the world of business.
The website is an undeniably stylish affair. A striking picture – which on closer inspection turn out inexplicably to be of graduating students tossing their mortar-boards skywards – provides the back-drop for the “Top 5.” This is the topical bit. Portfolio itself will be a monthly read, starting from the second issue in September, but the “Top 5” are financial and business news items cribbed from elsewhere – primarily the WSJ, NYT and FT, it would appear.
Below there’s more of a newsy bent – “The Cost of War”, looking at which companies benefit from the $600bn the US has spent since 2001 on its forays into Iraq and the Afghanistan.
But where’s the glamour? We can find death, destruction and its corporate beneficiaries elsewhere, thank you. The Daily Brief, a news blog, does better, if only in the headline – “Citi shows Pandit the love” – but it’s further down the homepage that you strike gold.
Tricky to find but once located, “In this issue” has the potent stench of a celebrity glossy – Tom Wolfe on hedge funds, “the new masters of the universe”, a piece on Eira Thomas, the Porsche-driving daughter of a Welsh mining engineer who led the team that discovered a multi-billion dollar diamond deposit in Canada, plus a behind-the-scenes-style number on Ken Griffin. Plus there’s a range of blogs for the online aficionado ranging across fashion, politics and finance, penned by Alphaville-favourite, Felix Salmon .
Sometimes the mix seems more Heat magazine does finance, than Vogue meets business. There’s “Spottings” a blog with pictures of the “stars” of business out and about – the fatal flaw being that faced with a picture of Howard Stringer at the NY premiere of Perfect Stranger, who wouldn’t rather just have a snap of Halle Berry, or even her co-star Bruce Willis.
Elsewhere, you can find Regression Analysis, a “now and then examination of the faces that have transformed the world of business,” complete with a neat slide show. Trouble is that bar the early, and well-documented geekiness of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs’ dubious moustache, they all look pretty much the same – Britney now and then, this is not. A red-eyed and clearly distraught Bernie Ebbers is bordering on the tabloid distasteful though – so better news there if that’s what they’re after.
Leaving aside the more down-market elements, it’s time for Wolfe’s opus on alternative investment. The print online is tiny: brow-knittingly, headache-inducingly tiny and this is a LONG story.
Hedge fund managers are aggressive, mega-rich, status-obsessed, we learn. It’s not news, but as one might expect, it’s a great read – high on how-the-other-half live anecdotes, light on the finance and market strategy, with only the odd eye-brow raiser – “Many prominent hedge fund managers are Jewish…”
The description of a fundraising auction for the Robin Hood Foundation, brainchild of Paul Tudor Jones II, is worth the read alone, with a cast list including Beyonce, Jon Stewart as master of ceremonies and Jay-Z leading “poor” children in an anti-gansta rap – “Read, Baby, Read.”
Then, writes Wolfe: “As soon as the auction is over, Paul Tudor Jones II comes fairly bouncing out upon the stage in his black-tie outfit, thanking one and all for the auction’s success—but adding that he knows a crowd like this one can give more. With that, he goes into a hedge fund hip-hop dance routine and raps out lyrics that begin, ‘If you wanna get, then you gotta give … ’ The Paul Tudor Jones II Show so excites one man, he stands up in the audience, wand aloft and all but blazing, and cries out, ‘I pledge $1 million!’.”
Others deliver in a similar vein. There’s Sheik Mohammed and his horses, Bill Ford‘s fight to save his family’s business, and the conceptually wonderful Men in Black Cars – “He sees you to the airport—but how does the guy in the front seat see you?”
It’s meant to be Vanity Fair for the finance set. But the feeling is very much ogle at, rather than do business with.
“Business is about power. And guts. And passion. Business coverage should be too”, writes Joanne Lipman in the editor’s letter. That’s enough to make you vomit. The rest of it looks rather entertaining though.