CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER
Quits the New York Times, Joins Conde Nast
20 Corporate Crime Reporter 40(1), October 10, 2006
Kurt Eichenwald, the lead white collar crime reporter for the New York Times over the past 20 years, quit the Times last week to join Portfolio, a new business magazine being launched by Conde Nast.
Eichenwald said it wasn’t about the money.
“I certainly wouldn’t leave the New York Times for less money,” Eichenwald said. “But it wasn’t about the money. It was about the opportunity.”
How much notice did he give the Times?
“A few weeks,” Eichenwald said. “We talked for a couple of days about whether or not this was the right thing for me. In the end, my departure was very good on all sides. They are wishing me great luck.”
At press time, Eichenwald’s biography still appeared on the Times’ web site.
And when you call the Times in New York and ask for him, they switch you to his phone.
On it, Eichenwald has a message that says “please don’t leave a message here, I will not be checking this voice mail.”
In fact, he is gone.
Why would anyone leave the New York Times to join a start up business magazine?
“Probably the scariest thing I have ever done was to leave the New York Times,” Eichenwald said. “And it’s true, magazines fail often, but most magazines don’t have $100 million in start up money and Conde Nast behind them. And as I tell my children, failure is a great thing. If you are not failing, you are not trying. It is a good thing to take a risk.”
Eichenwald made his mark covering the biggest corporate scandals for the Times, and turned his reporting into best selling books – Serpent on the Rock (Harper Collins, 1995) about the Prudential Securities scandal, The Informant: A True Story (Random House, 2000) about the Archer Daniels Midland price-fixing case, and The Conspiracy of Fools (Broadway, 2005), about the Enron scandal.
But surely the money had something to do with Eichenwald jumping ship.
“Let’s not go there,” Eichenwald says.
Then he tried to explain it another way.
“I can’t imagine that I would have left the New York Times for any business publication currently in print,” he said. “This magazine will not be like anything on the market. I worked for a newspaper. And newspapers have structures and functions. The Times was ready to work with me, but it was too much to ask the paper to not be a newspaper. Here, I get something I want to work on. And no idea has been turned down yet. And I can write in a very long form. I can write 10,000 word articles.”
At the Times, Eichenwald focused almost exclusively on corporate and white collar crime. And he says, he will continue that focus at Portfolio.
“I could go off and write books for a living,” he says. “And again, this is not about the money. It is about this – what am I going to do for the next 20 years? I love the New York Times. They have been unbelievably good to me. But the difference here is there is not a beat system. If I want to write about it I can do it without stepping on anybody’s toes.”
In an e-mail to Times staff, Business Editor Larry Ingrassia wrote that “Kurt brought a passion about reporting and writing stories that matter and that make a difference.”
“His intensity knew no bounds, especially when he was digging out stuff that nobody else could get,” Ingrassia wrote. “Kurt is one of the best in the business of business reporting, and we will miss him.”
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