Steve Forbes Discloses Key Crossroads of His Media Company’s 100-Year History, Judges ‘Pitch Tank’

Posted: Jul 24, 2017 1:37 PM

LAS VEGAS–Media Mogul Steve Forbes, chairman and editor in chief of Forbes Media, told attendees at FreedomFest about the need to innovate to avoid faltering in business and shared a story about how his grandfather B.C. Forbes turned down tens of millions of dollars to sell the publication in 1927 before he nearly lost the company three years later in the Great Depression.

Rather than succumb to bankruptcy, the grandfather enacted pay cuts and helped lead the company to survive and ultimately culminate this year with its 100th anniversary. The younger Forbes also spent part of his morning at FreedomFest judging a “Pitch Tank” competition and awarded first place to Revive Solutions, Inc., a company that aims to have mobile phones use computer chips to work with its automated external defibrillator (AED) devices to help save people who suddenly go into cardiac arrest.

Steve Forbes recalled his father, Malcom Forbes, saying the purpose of business was to produce happiness, not to make money. Steve Forbes told FreedomFest attendees that unlike many other media organizations, his company, along with its editors and writers, don’t view business people as “miscreants.”

Instead, Forbes said his organization perceives business people and entrepreneurs positively.

“Capitalism leads to extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit,” Forbes said.

William Baldwin, a former editor at Forbes, also spoke about the 100th anniversary of the magazine by saying, “Forbes outlived the Bolsheviks.”

The session’s moderator Dr. Mark Skousen, editor of the Forecasts & Strategies investment newsletter, commented that communism remains alive despite its failures. He added that MIT Press recently published a book called “Communism for Kids.”

In support of free markets, Forbes said his entire family participated in events on his father’s “Highlander” yacht to help cultivate clients and advertising sales.

“Business is like a garden,” Forbes said. “You have to take care of it.”

The Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest business people in America has become popular and involved some enterprising information gathering and reporting to compile, Forbes and Baldwin said. It also has shown great variety and change, with the 1980 Forbes 400 list abundant with oil tycoons, including many who did not remain on the list in later years, Baldwin added.

President Donald Trump also fell off the list during the early 1990s when he had a “spat of trouble” with his real estate holdings, Forbes said. However, Trump is a rarity among those included in the list by complaining that the rankings understate his true wealth, Forbes added.

Forbes celebrated his 70th birthday at a FreedomFest gala on Saturday night, July 22, and it led him to share details about his late father’s 70th birthday in which many guests were flown to the event in Morocco aboard a Concord or a Boeing 747.

“My father did not do things by small measures,” Forbes said.

But the business magazine arena has been filled with financial fallout, with Baldwin saying BusinessWeek was sold by McGraw-Hill for $1 in 2008.

Forbes, meanwhile gained sales and circulation by continually seeking to improve its editorial content through its existence, its chairman said. However, the web “obliterated” the previous business model for print publications.

Peter Drucker, Austrian-born American management consultant and author, once said it is important for business leaders to remind their mission and purpose, Forbes said.

To respond to the proliferation of web traffic, Forbes Media initially separated its magazine staff from its online version to focus on pursuing their unique objectives. The company later combined those operations and touched off what became a “huge cultural bloodbath, Forbes said.

The magazine staffers considered the web-focused journalists as “trash,” while the latter employees regarded the former as “lazy,” Forbes said.

The transition and enhancements also have given Forbes a large number of experts and an editorial team that is “much more numerical” than those of its rivals, Baldwin said.

“You can’t be a success in business journalism if you don’t have numerical skills,” Baldwin said.

When asked to give a prediction of what Forbes Media might be like 100 years from now, Steve Forbes said he expected it would be following the spirit of B.C. Forbes and still reporting about the “spirit of capitalism.”

Forbes also was among the judges in a “Pitch Tank” competition won by Revive Solutions, which is offering an AED medical device to be powered by smart phones. The medical device is a more portable, lightweight, affordable and user friendly than any other AEDs currently available, its leaders said.

During a public presentation of the company’s top managers before the “Pitch Tank” judges, Sameer Jafri, its co-founder, president and chief operating officer, said their vision is to “go big.”

The market is immense, since sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death among adults over the age of 40. It also is the biggest killer of student athletes and leads to more than 300,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.

Current AEDs are priced at $1,200-$3,000 per unit, along with an additional $200-$300 every two years to replace the battery and electrode pad. The estimated price point for the company’s medical device would be $350-$400 to make it more than 60% more affordable compared to current AEDs on the market.

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