I stood mesmerized in front of the newsstand, staring at the golden-colored cover of the magazine — an arial view of Manhattan — assuming I'd been transported to some other time zone. Were we back in the heyday of the '80s, when business and Reaganomics were the rage? Or had we gone farther back still, to the '50s, when New York glowed like a beacon to all those who sought fame and fortune along its rugged streets and in its towering skyscrapers?
The premier issue of Portfolio — Condé Nast's newest entry in the magazine sweepstakes — harkens back to the days of Manhattan Inc., the brainchild of D. Herbert Lipson, the editor of Philadelphia magazine. That journal amounted to Lipson's brief but spectacular foray into New York City, and it, too, was a shining light for much of the 1980s that was devoured each month by all those in the business world who considered it essential reading. In fact, the mix was so potent that it was also gobbled up by lots of people who didn't know a thing about business — and could normally have cared less.
Manhattan Inc. seems to have been the prototype for Portfolio. The earlier magazine used splashy layouts and inventive environmental photography to make the captains of industry into the equivalent of rock stars — and so does this new publication.
And Condé Nast clearly spared no expense to make it a show-stopper. They drew together a star roster of writers, including Tom Wolfe, Michael Lewis and Matthew Cooper, and collared all of the regular advertisers who pack Vanity Fair, GQ, Vogue and Condé Nast Traveler with loads of glossy, upscale ads.
The stories also mined that vein. Wolfe — 20 years beyond The Bonfire of the Vanities — looked at what the editors described as "the new Masters of the Universe." Lewis, known for his business classic Moneyball, analyzed sports business trends. And Cooper, late of Time magazine, explained how he got caught up in "Plamegate."
Editor-in-chief Joanne Lipman started things off by hitting just the right Manhattan Inc. tone in her editor's letter: "Business is about power. And guts. And passion. Business coverage should be too.
"Welcome to the first issue of Condé Nast Portfolio, a monthly magazine that chronicles how business shapes the world — and who the players are that wield the power. You don't have to wear a suit or sit behind a desk to love the intrigue or be fascinated by the winners and losers. We see the business angle in every story, from politics to art, technology to entertainment. …
"Today's 24/7 news cycle bombards us with information but gives us less time to process it. That's where … Portfolio comes in. We've assembled a remarkable pool of writers to bring you richly reported narratives and investigations [and] … we've joined them with the best magazine designers and photographers in the business … to tell these stories in a vibrant, visual way."