Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Business as Usual

Sunday rain. 4:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014. Grey and overcast and growing colder through the day, yesterday in New York; with the rains coming in after midnight, and forecast to last through the day. The sunshine, however, has arrived from across the Atlantic in the persons of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, or Wills and Kate to you and me, who landed in New York Sunday night, staying at the Carlyle and will be on whirlwind tour – including Wills’ visit with Obama – until tomorrow.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge outside the Carlyle.
Like millions of others, I am a fan of Wills and Kate. I don’t know them, and have never met them although there is the slightest (but only) that we might get to be introduced tonight at the Metropolitan Museum where they will appear at a fundraising dinner for their alma mater, University of St. Andrews which is celebrating its 600th anniversary! It’s a large dinner and chances are I’ll only get to see them from afar. However, that will be enough.

I’m not the “fan” type when it comes to public figures, but whenever I see photos of these two I’m inclined to break out in a smile. I’m reminded of his mother, of course, and I like to think that he’s a chip off that “old block” who has found a partner with whom to share, nurture and develop it.

There are so few highly publicized human beings or political situations in the world that can elicit even a smile, that these two are to be appreciated for it. I have no illusions about their “political power” but the message is clear, at least in terms of their public image: decent and caring. A powerful combination to be raised in the public consciousness of our world today. So we have hopes attached to them, for them and for their family, and their marriage, and if it could be, or would be, for this harried world of ours.

Last night, on my way to dinner, I stopped by Creel & Gow on East 70th Street between Park and Lexington Avenue where its proprietors, Jamie Creel and Christopher Gow were hosting a book signing reception for Marella Caracciolo Chia and her new book about her aunt Marella Agnelli. It is called “Marella Agnelli: The Last Swan,” and was co-authored by the lady in the title herself.
The author last night at Creel & Gow. Click to order Marella Agnelli: The Last Swan.
It’s a personal memoir, and a coffee table book (Rizzoli, Publishers) and contains a never-seen-before tour through Sra. Agnelli’s homes and gardens, as well as her memories of her life, her family and friends. It is an extraordinary volume of beauty that is a gift to any eyes. The book is Sra. Agnelli’s fourth book and her third with her niece, who is a respected journalist (she writes for Architectural Digest and is a contributing European editor for the New York Times T Magazine and The World of Interiors). She has also authored several books herself. 
The author inscribes her book to me ...
Last Thursday night, Bloomberg Businessweek held its 85th anniversary celebration hosted by Michael Bloomberg at the American Museum of Natural History. The event celebrated the most disruptive ideas in business over the last 85 years, the success of Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2010 relaunch at Bloomberg under editor Josh Tyrangiel.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga performed songs from their #1 album Cheek to Cheek for guests and Seth Meyers was the Master of Ceremonies.
Bloomberg Businessweek's Josh Tyrangiel, Lady Gaga, Michael Bloomberg, Tony Bennett, and Seth Meyers, this past Thursday night at the magazine's 85th anniversary celebration at the American Museum of Natural History.
Among the several hundred guests and luminaries were: Preet Bharara, Joanna Coles, Barry Diller, Ronan Farrow, Renée Fleming, Mindy Grossman, Luziah Hennessy, George Lucas and Mellody Hobson, Abby Huntsman, Donna Karan, Gayle King, Henry Kissinger, Calvin Klein, Padma Lakshmi, Jenna Lyons, Ari Melber, Seth Meyers, Bridget Moynahan, Bruce Ratner, Charlie Rose, Jane Rosenthal, Cynthia Rowley, Steve Schwarzman, Sir Martin Sorrell, David Stern, Martha Stewart, Josh Tyrangiel, Alex Wagner, Harvey Weinstein, Elaine Wynn, Mortimer Zuckerman.

I rarely write about magazines’ public events, and for that reason I didn’t attend. Because although I am not the magazine reader I used to be (although I still do look), I have a natural attraction to the business. I grew up on them as a reader from an early age. It was the magazines of America that took the small town boy’a dreams into the big town life -- a common “dream” among the wide-eyed and thirsty. Magazines provided the fodder and the nurturing.
The scene of the Bloomberg Businessweek dinner.
I have a lot of opinions about various publications, especially with the internet’s effect on the entire media business. But those opinions are personal and irrelevant. So I passed up an invitation to the Bloomberg businessweek gala (and that’s what it was) at the American Museum of Natural History.

However, when I learned about it through their public relations team, I could see this particular dinner had the earmarks of “substance,” a high-powered marketing event, a re-creating the image of a magazine. In the days of yore, magazines relied entirely on their editorial content to pique the curiosity of potential readership to get attention. But of course in those days, the actual readership was broader and wider. Today, in this rat race to the top of the marketing lists, magazines, like everybody else in the media world, are out promoting their images as a “brand.” And so it is.
Dr. Nouriel Roubini.
It so happens that among the magazines and newspapers I’ve always been drawn to for enlightenment are the business journals. Business Week was never at the top of my list. I grew up on Forbes probably because its editorial seemed open to non-business readers, and Fortune for its beautifully presented editorial and physical presence. But that was then. I don’t read either anymore although I do occasionally read a piece from Forbes online.

My own likes aside, I have learned from a little research that Business Week in its now long history, it has been the most successful of all business magazines in terms of advertising pages. The magazine carried more annual advertising pages than any other magazine in the United States, as amazing as that sounds. By the late 1980s (it was started in 1929), readership grew to more than 6 million. Amazing because it had an almost academic image with none of the glamorous gravitas of Fortune or the Wall Street crustiness of Forbes.
Michael Bloomberg, Harvey Weinstein, and Mortimer Zuckerman.
The magazine suffered a decline in circulation and in ad pages during the Great Recession, and in 2009, Bloomberg L. P. bought the magazine and renamed it Bloomberg Businessweek. The new owner began expanding their readership international and three years ago relaunched a Chinese edition.

Justin Smith, the man behind the marketing and promotion of The Week, and then after that, shepherded the Atlantic into a bright new image and broader readership, joined Bloomberg a couple of years ago as CEO of Bloomberg Media. Smith has a knack, as demonstrated by his previous associations, for taking a magazine mainstream beyond the constrictions of its supposed audiences. Now he’s really in the bigtime. Bloomberg, once the home of the first financial computer channels, is bigger and broader than the aforementioned and obviously still expanding. The anniversary celebration – the size, the guest list, the entertainment are to me indications of a new a bigger future for this highly reputable publication.
Justin Smith, CEO of Bloomberg Media.
Michael Bloomberg’s great success with his executives and editors, it would seem, is that they work for and are inspired by the man. He also has a tendency to choose those who are capable of sharing their talents so generously and loyally. The magazine business is tougher and tougher because people read less and less if it’s not on their personal idiot boxes. Television did the same thing. The world is moving faster and faster. If last Thursday night was any indication of the plans for the new Bloomberg Businessweek,  I think we got an indication of it at their “gala” evening at the American Museum of Natural History.
Hank Paulson and David Stern. Ronan Farrow.
Mellody Hobson and George Lucas. Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis.
Henry Kissinger, Elaine Wynn, Charlie Rose, and Michael Bloomberg.
Jay Diamond and Alexandra Lebenthal. Gayle King and Hilary Rosen.
Patti Harris, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Hilary Geary Ross.
Jim Tisch, Ellen Futter, and Joel Klein.
Stephanie Ruhle, Mickey Drexler, Steven Roth, and Daryl Roth.
Georgette Mosbacher, Jane Rosenthal, and Robert Zimmerman.
Nick Summers, Peter Coy, and Josh Tyrangiel.
Lionel Barber, Patricia Duff, and Richard Cohen.
Michael Milken, Lori Anne Hackel, and Joel Klein.
Josh Tyrangiel, Dan Doctoroff, and Peter Coy.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Harvey Weinstein, Mortimer Zuckerman, and Jane Rosenthal.
Alain Degrelle, Luziah Hennessy, Renée Fleming, and Tim Jessell.
Lauren Zalaznick, Joanna Coles, Peter Godwin, Jenna Lyons, and Courtney Crangi.
Jerry Speyer and Sir Martin Sorrell.
Jerry Speyer and Elaine Wynn.
Martha Stewart.
 

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