Books: The Fall of the House of Forbes

This inside look at the house the Forbes family built reads as though its author spent years sharpening his knife.

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF FORBES: The Inside Story of the Collapse of a Media Empire
(St. Martin’s)
Stewart Pinkerton

First, the author’s bona fides: 24 years at The Wall Street Journal, culminating in a senior editorial role, then 20 years as a writer and editor at Forbes, ending up on the managing editor’s perch. That may suggest a veteran journalist of impeccable credentials. Or it may suggest a bitter former employee with scores to settle, particularly because Pinkerton was knocked from that perch in the spring of 2009, allegedly the victim of a power struggle with an internal rival. This inside look at the house the Forbes family built—the famous headquarters at 60 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, in fact—certainly reads as though its author spent the years since sharpening his knife.

Whether that sounds to your liking will depend on your taste or distaste for the late Malcolm Forbes and his son, current magazine editor and Forbes Inc. CEO Steve. Pinkerton’s account of Forbes’ growth from “quaint, second-tier stock tip sheet” in the 1950s to capitalist bible to the faded publication it is today is gossipy in the extreme about Malcolm’s extravagant lifestyle, Steve’s ill-fated presidential campaigns, and the eventual dwindling of the family’s fortune. That doesn’t make it a bad read—just a trashy one.