Miguel Forbes is fourth generation and embodies the ethos of the Forbes media company’s entrepreneurial capitalism. He’s president of the company’s worldwide development and principally responsible for Forbes’ international magazine presence as well as its expansion into financial services.
Prince: Let’s begin by having you explain your position at Forbes Media.
Forbes: Forbes is an internationally recognized brand, especially among those concerned about national, corporate and personal wealth creation. My role is to first identify partners that understand the value of the brand, who have the same perspectives on business that we have, and then I’m responsible for connecting the dots. That means if there’s interest and common ground, I work to facilitate a deal between Forbes Media and the other party.
What’s also important to understand is that not only am I instrumental in forging these deals, I’m also extensively involved in linking the broad and deep resources at Forbes Media with these endeavors. What’s great about the culture at Forbes is that we all work together to make things happen. So while I might be spearheading this business line, there are very many talented and creative people at [Forbes Media] that are critical to the success of these deals.
Prince: Do you get many people looking to partner with Forbes?
Forbes: We get lots of inquiries, and part of my job is to carefully screen them and evaluate the financial potential and ensure that the gold standard we adhere to at Forbes is maintained. Moreover, I’m very proactive in sourcing possible business deals, which is the primary way we find partners.
Prince: Can you give us some examples of the types of deals you’re doing?
Forbes: Let me start with the most obvious. Forbes is now approaching having 30 foreign language editions. The brand is certainly as strong [internationally] as it is in the U.S., and in many cases much more revered overseas. Due to the efforts of the gifted editorial group, we work to ensure the direction and quality of the foreign editions.
Prince: Through your efforts, Forbes has entered the private wealth universe. Please describe the businesses you helped launch.
Forbes: We currently have two main initiatives. There’s the Forbes Family Trust and the Forbes Private Capital Group.
The Forbes Family Trust, or FFT as we call it, is a multifamily office offering the complete array of financial, administrative and lifestyle services to a select high-net-worth clientele. We recently merged FFT with another multifamily office out of Philadelphia—LGL, which was founded by the Lenfest family.
The Forbes Private Capital Group is a premier third-party marketer. It raises capital for hedge funds, private equity funds and real estate funds. Additionally, it raises monies for direct investments.
Prince: Why has Forbes expanded into financial services?
Forbes: The decision made perfect sense. Forbes has been providing financial and related insights for almost 100 years. It’s a natural progression from our core business, which is mainly advertising and subscriber supported.
We also see this as a unique time, when the industry is in transition and the demand for new innovations and solutions is so high. Investors, for example, are frustrated with many of the traditional providers of financial services. They don’t feel that their needs come first and have been burned several times. In many cases, the conflicts of interest get in the way of investors being treated like valued customers and partners. We have created FFT and the Forbes Private Capital Group as an alternative to what is currently in the marketplace and continue to look for areas to operate where customers aren’t getting their specific needs met.
FFT is truly focused on the client. The firm does an exceptional job of creating customized solutions to meet individual needs, and I know just how responsive they are, being a client. At the Forbes Private Capital Group, we’re seeing a lot of talent out there that needs help raising capital and needs a platform, so they can focus on what they do best, which is make investments. So we will help get new funds off the ground and participate at the general partner level.
Prince: What is your role in these two new ventures?
Forbes: I was a co-founder of both and act as vice chairman for both of them. While there are many factors outside of our control, we’re looking to work closely with our partners to make the businesses extremely successful.
Prince: Can you give us an example, aside from an oversight and corporate role, of your involvement?
Forbes: My intent is to create as much value as possible for Forbes Media, the businesses I help establish and the clients of these businesses. I’m exceedingly focused on identifying opportunities where serious value can be had. For example, I met with an individual on the Forbes billionaires list who introduced me to his chief investment officer. Based on the chief investment officer’s investment philosophy and what he was looking for at that moment, I introduced him to Forbes Private Capital Group because there was an alignment of interests. He made a $20 million direct investment.
I will not consider making an introduction to FFT or the Forbes Private Capital Group unless there’s a very strong alignment of interests. When I do make introductions, both sides are going to benefit.
Prince: Are there other financial service areas where you see Forbes expanding?
Forbes: I think Forbes has a number of different opportunities that we can pursue. I think it is always best to start at the high end of the market, as this is where Forbes excels and it’s where we can refine the business models most effectively. That’s why we started with the Forbes Family Trust and the Forbes Private Capital Group.
At the same time, the value we can bring to a broader constituency isn’t lost on us. For example, groups wanting to benefit from our brand and resources—to deliver to upper-middle-class investors the same investment acumen we’re currently delivering to high-net-worth families—regularly approach us. So far, I haven’t found a partner that I feel will match with the Forbes perspective and culture.
Prince: Aside from expanding into financial services, what other areas are you pursuing?
Forbes: I’m presently evaluating a number of commercial real estate opportunities in various countries. The nature of these projects varies. However, they are all large-scale endeavors.
I’m always interested in potential opportunities for Forbes. The key is to ensure that the integrity of the brand is always maintained. This means that the deal itself has to make sense. The business model must be well thought out and it must be sound. Just as important are the people involved. We work hard to make sure the people we do these deals with are exceptionally credible and capable.
Prince: Where do you see Forbes Media going in the near future?
Forbes: It’s common knowledge that the media business is working on reinventing itself. The Forbes of my grandfather’s tenure cannot possibly be the model for Forbes today or tomorrow. The way I look at it is that we’re embracing entrepreneurial capitalism just as we advocate other people to do so. As a firm, we’re doing what we recommend.
Key to our success is to look for disruption in business models and determine where Forbes, with its brand, expertise and resources, can profitably benefit. My role is to source business opportunities across the globe where we can add significant value.
Critical to making this happen is our emphasis on talent. Internally and with the people we team up with, we’re always looking for forward-thinking, highly proficient individuals. For example, Keith Bloomfield is president of FFT. He’s unquestionably one of the leading authorities in the family office space and he’s very well connected with significant wealthy families throughout the world. Very importantly, because he understands the value Forbes brings to the table as well as our high standards, Keith correctly has turned away business because the match wasn’t right. This is the level of professionalism I’m looking for in partners.
Our goal is to always work with exceptionally capable individuals. You can see this in many of the strategic actions we take. Another example is Lewis DVorkin, who is chief product officer at Forbes Media. He brilliantly led the reinvention of Forbes magazine and Forbes.com. The actualization of his vision is transforming the media business and I believe he’s just getting started.
Prince: What about yourself? Where do you see yourself in the near future?
Forbes: While we’re going to work to stay at the leading edge of the media business, I think the ability to leverage the Forbes brand and resources is still in its infancy. I’m focused on finding synergistic relationships between Forbes and industries like financial services, where we can team up with creative minds.
I don’t think there’s any question that Forbes as a media company and as a partner with other firms in various industries can create a new and bright future. I excitedly look forward to contributing to that success.