A Few Words About Alan Abelson

We learned of the sad news of Alan Abelson’s passing yesterday.

I know so many people who have “Abelson stories” — from Doug Kass to Stephanie Pomboy to David Rosenberg to Phillip Dunne. Hopefully, these folks will share some of their memories about the man and the writer in the coming days. (Josh does a nice job here).

Ableson’s dry sardonic wit made him everyone’s first read in the weekly, whether it was in print or online. His ability to turn a phrase, capture the zeitgeist in a sentence and then delightfully disembowel it a phrase or two later. CJR notes that Abelson spent 57 years at Barron’s, and “started writing his withering Up and Down Wall Street column in 1966 and continued writing through February of this year.”

He turned his sharp eye and acid pen on the absurdity of Wall Street, and the systemic ways that financiers labored to separate good people from their money. He was criticized at times for being to bearish — in the late 1990s and again in the mid 2000s — but in each case, he was ultimately proved correct. Besides, a journalist’s job is to shine a light on issues of potential importance — not generate a weekly positive P&L.

I recall my first ever mention in his column back in 2004 or 05 — when someone you have admired for so many years says something nice about you (even in passing) it can be overwhelming. At the time I worked at Maxim Group — a sell side firm with about $5B in assets. I remember getting a call from Ed Rose, the firm’s general counsel, at home on the weekend to congratulate me about the mention — which speaks volumes more about Abelson’s stature and influence than anything it says about me.

We took in the sad news yesterday, knowing the likes of Abelson will never be replaced. Randall Forsyth has been doing an excellent job handling the column in Abelson’s absence . . . but I do not envy the task that lay before him, for those are some mighty big shoes to fill . . .


Alan Abelson: 1925 to 2013  (Barron’s)

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