Condé Nast, the New York publisher, today launches Portfolio, a new magazine that chronicles “how business shapes the world—and who the players are that wield the power.”
The first batch of stories is impressive, and if the magazine keeps this up, it’s bound to make waves. Each piece in the first edition has a business angle, but they range from politics to art, technology to entertainment. We’re still reading, and absorbing, but here are the essentials.
For VentureBeat readers, there’s a piece about John Doerr, and a couple of pieces about private equity worth looking at. In Behind the Green Doerr, writer Russ Mitchell profiles one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful venture capitalists, John Doerr, of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, who is betting big on green technology, and according to the magazine “asking taxpayers to foot the bill.” Kleiner Perkins is investing $200 million in “greentech”—including coal gasification, fuel cell batteries, cellulosic biofuels, and thin solar film—none of which is close to financial sustainability, Mitchell reports, which means that the supersize returns V.C. funds ‘depend on will require massive government subsidies, regulations, and mandates.’ Russell reports that since 2000, Doerr has donated more than $31 million to pro-greentech political candidates and causes. This is a cynical view on Doerr’s activities, one that you haven’t gotten too frequently at VentureBeat lately — mainly because we’ve focused so much on the importance of investing in green technologies, given the real danger of global warming. From time to time, it’s a good thing to step back and call people on their statements that can be considered hype, as Mitchell does with Doerr. However, in defense of Doerr, we’ve found him intellectually honest when we’ve talked with him, even if he does have the penchant to illustrate with extremes. While Doerr talks about the melting of Greenland possibly causing a rise in ocean levels of 20 to 30 feet, that’s clearly unlikely to happen anytime soon, as the critics point out. But Doerr’s point, we thought, is that melting is happening, and that massive rise is what would happen if there were a total meltdown.
–Bonfire of the Vanities author and contributing editor Tom Wolfe checks in with the new “Masters of the Universe” and finds them “even coarser and ruder than their predecessors could have imagined.” The magazine’s summary of the piece: “Part narrative, part reportage, Wolfe’s story profiles the hedge fund and private equity managers, stock and bond traders, and lone-wolf entrepreneurs who live in Greenwich, Connecticut, headquarters for 100 or so hedge funds, which as a group handle about $100 billion, nearly one-tenth of all the hedge fund money in the world. ‘The tales are endless: the hedge fund founder desperate to get his son into one of Greenwich’s socially swell private schools who clips a six-figure check to the first page of the application, witlessly forcing the school to reject both his son and his check or lose all credibility,’ Wolfe writes. ‘Whenever such rich gossip is repeated, somebody invariably says, ‘”Who are these people?’”
–Also, there’s Michael Lewis’ report that Wall Street is about to launch a new way to trade professional athletes the way you trade stocks: “On the proposed A.S.A. Sports Exchange, an athlete would sell 20 percent of all future on-field or on-court earnings to a trust, which would in turn sell securities to the public.”
–A piece about Bruce Sherman, C.E.O. of Private Capital Management, who shredded major newspaper publisher, Knight Ridder, and how the New York Times’ Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is trying to avoid Sherman doing the same to his company.
—What’s Wrong With This Picture?: The 10 biggest private equity firms, which employ roughly 1,000 investment professionals, have just four U.S.-based partner-level women in charge of putting together deals, reports staff writer Sheelah Kolhatkar. Six female dealmakers talk about what it takes to be at the top of their game.
—Weapons of Mass Production: John Hockenberry writes about companies that are reaping the benefits of the Iraqi war: “No matter how you view them, the numbers inspire shock and awe.”