Local TV affiliates do not get more physically impressive than Manchester's WMUR, known jokingly to employees as "the house that Forbes built." Forbes is Steve Forbes, whose quixotic campaigns for president in 1996 and 2000 poured millions into the WMUR—while enriching a bevy of campaign consultants.
The Forbes campaign remains one of the more baffling chapters in recent presidential politics. How did anybody convince Forbes—how did Forbes convince himself—that he stood any kind of chance in either contest? Why didn't he run for the Senate from New Jersey if he wanted to try elected office? Combined with the crisis in the economics of magazine publishing in the Internet era, Forbes' campaigns sadly depleted his family fortune. (As reported by the New York Times here.)
"Until his death in 1990, the brothers’ father, Malcolm S. Forbes, embodied living large. There were hot-air balloons, a palace in Tangiers, an island in the Pacific, Fabergé eggs, an extensive art collection, a Boeing 727 (also christened the 'Capitalist Tool') and a 151-foot yacht named 'The Highlander' as homage to the family’s Scottish roots. As young men, his four sons would play the bagpipes to welcome guests — mainly prospective advertisers — aboard.
In the last few years, the palace and island have been sold. A collection of tin soldiers was put on a forced march, $27 million worth of Victorian art was peddled, the eggs were bought by a Russian oligarch, and the jet is gone. They still have the yacht, but the crew has been let go and it has been docked in Miami.
'We thought it would be inappropriate in this environment to run around in the boat,' said Tim Forbes. 'So it seemed like a natural thing to put it on hiatus.'
In 2007, the family even tried to sell the company’s ornate headquarters on Fifth Avenue and move to a less fancy address, but the souring real estate market stopped them."
The business that generated the family fortune has been battered by economic downturn and technological change.
"The company, historically benevolent to employees, has ceased matching contributions to its 401(k) program. Out of its 1,000 employees, it has laid off about 100 since November, including 20 people in January, and has announced an unpaid five-day furlough for employees.
In 2006, 40 percent of the enterprise was sold to Elevation Partners, a private equity firm, for a reported $300 million, setting the value of the enterprise at $750 million. According to Mark M. Edmiston of AdMedia Partners, 'it’s probably not worth half of that now.'”
I worked at Forbes in the early 1990s. I always liked Steve Forbes personally very much: he's a kindly and good-natured man, although sadly uncomfortable with everyone except personal intimates. He was taken advantage of by people who lured him into politics with everything except his own best interests in mind. I feel oddly guilty sitting in the CNN workspace inside the palatial TV station built with money that by rights ought to have flowed to his grandchildren instead.