how the rich party and do business

Ron Rosenbaum did some great interviews back in the 1980s. Here’s an excerpt from a lunch interview with Malcolm Forbes.

“We’re in Forbes’s baronial drawing room having drinks and getting into the intricacies of investigative yachting. To hear Forbes tell it, the yachting experience is a powerful investigative tool.

“If you spend all day with a man and his wife on a boat and see their interplay with other CEOs on the boat, you get a gut feeling….”

Every year Forbes targets about 150 CEOs who are ripe for an investigative cruise. In a veritable investigative blitz, invitations go out to up to 25 CEOs for 6 weekend cruises with the Forbes family up the Hudson.

Malcolm’s toy boat collection

Then there’s the wine cellar which is the inner sanctum of investigative lunching at Forbes.

“All four walls are lined from floor to ceiling with racks of ageing bottles in repose. And hung from the ceiling are dozens of silver wine cups with dangerous looking silver antlers projecting from the rims.


“We bring some CEO here who likes wines. Sometimes we’ll give him a bottle of the year of his birth. The only promise we extract from him is that if he opens it and it’s vinegar, he won’t tell us. We engrave two of these silver wine cups with the date of his visit, then a year later we send him one and keep the other here. The idea is we tell them if their cup is in the wine cellar, anytime they’re in the neighbourhood they’re entitled to come down here and open any bottle of wine they want.”

Forbes Wine Cellar

Forbes chose the Palais Mendoub in the northwestern city of Tangier, Morocco to host his 70th birthday party. Spending an estimated $2.5 million, he chartered a Boeing 747, a DC-8 and a Concorde to fly in eight hundred of the world’s rich and famous from New York and London. The party entertainment was on a grand scale, including 600 drummers, acrobats and dancers and a fantasia (a cavalry charge which ends with the firing of muskets into the air) by 300 Berber horsemen.


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49 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Forbes was also a big motorcycle fan! He had a fleet some of 50 Harleys that he would lend to various ‘stars’ for ride-outs around California – Elizabeth Taylor, Warren Beatty, Cher etc etc. His jacket was emblazoned with ‘Capitalist Tool’, and the posse was known as The Hell’s Capitalists.

    • Capitalist Tool ? I love it!

  2. The wine cups with antlers sound kind of terrifying. What were they for? My guess is that they kept people from drinking too much, because if you got drunk and sloppy and tried to drink more wine, you’d eventually poke yourself in the face with a wine cup antler.

    • I think the antlers formed part of his family crest. But you’re right, they sound terrifying. I wasn’t able to find any images of them on the net either 😦

  3. One word: Creepy

    • Investigative yachting or cups with antlers?

  4. Ye gods, if only the CIA et al had thought of this approach to interrogation. Submit a suspected terrorist to one of these investigative lunches and I am sure that he would be singing like a canary just after the amuse bouche

  5. So how exactly did he judge the calibre of his guests from the wine-tasting? Presumably they were done for if they slurped it noisily or knocked back a glass in one gulp or spilled it on someone’s pants. Or threw the empty glass overboard, shouting “Where are the bloody lap dancers?”

  6. “investigative yachting”? can’t the dude just interview people like the rest of us? (and my new motorcycle handle is “Owned by The Man”)

  7. Wondering why they couldn’t tell him if they were vinegar. Maybe he would feel guilty pawning that crap off to the next guy.

    • He didn’t want to hear that any of his wine had turned sour because it would devalue the collection

  8. This all sounds very “Lord of the Flies” to me. Isolate them on a boat and see their primal instincts come out. What a weirdo.

    I remember visiting the Forbes offices down on 5th and 12th Street to see their fantastic Fabergé egg collection they had on permanent display in the lobby. I wonder what happened to them?

    • They’ve gone to Russia

      “When Sotheby’s planned to auction the Forbes collection of nine jewel-encrusted Fabergé eggs in April 2004, Vekselberg famously pre-empted the sale and bought them outright for $110m”

  9. If ye invest in earthy things ye shall have no credit in the Kingdom. Sounds important but it sure makes things a little more comfortable while we are here to have some stuff. .

  10. Is this the origins of waterboarding…

  11. Sounds a bit like speed dating meets “I’m on a boat”.

    • “I’m on a Boat” is the Lonely Island song isn’t it? I like this one better!

      • I liked that one too (speaking of which, I have a weird set of vintage porn that features this phenomenon both hilariously and graphically) but I think the about the boombox changing the world remains my favorite.

  12. Interesting stuff.

    And I had never heard of “a fantasia.” Also very interesting. 🙂 Surely would be something to see.

  13. Not quite the same as being asked along to the canteen by your boss, is it? I need to go upmarket.

  14. Drinking myself into a stupour in the Forbes cellar is on my to-do list.

    • Me too, now how to crack the nod …

  15. Sounds like a bit of a show off to me

    • A total skite

      • And looks too much like John Howard for me!

  16. It’s amazing what people reveal about themselves in friendly situations. It all seems so safe in that environment, and then you see what people do with it after the fact. Mmmm…

  17. If I got a cup, I’d just hang out in the wine cellar all the time, and be an incurable alcoholic at sea.

  18. So ‘investigative yachting’ is ‘Dead Calm’ for the Forbes set, is it?


    • Nicole’s best film 😉

  19. It would have been far more informative for Mr Forbes to invite those CEO’s to Investigative Orgies.

  20. I might buy a canoe and see if I can get somebody with at least more money than me (that would be most people) to hang out and give me that gut feeling too.

  21. How did the free-wheeling Malcolm Forbes end up with an uptight, conservative son like Steve?

    • I don’t know much about the son but he’s into politics isn’t he?

  22. Wealthy people, and I mean wealthy, not just rich, have always creeped me out. Most of them would hunt you for sport if they thought they could get away with it. God Damn robber baron, child labor using, immigrant exploiting, human rights violating, man hunting assholes, I say!

  23. Did he hand out earplugs for those standing near the musket bearing Berbers? Or was part of the 2.5 million spent on deaf guests suing him successfully after the event?

  24. Why does this make me think of the scene in Eyes Wide Shut? Hell i’m american and rich americans scare the shit out of me, strange breed the captains of industry.

  25. I want a yacht!

    • I want to give you one!

  26. Wow, back when Elizabeth Taylor could walk.

  27. MMMMM – Liz Taylor, too bad she didn’t grow old gracefully, cause DAMN SHE WAS HOT IN THE 60’s!

  28. Nursemyra had an investigative vacation in Lesbos this year. That’s way better than what the Forbes could offer.

  29. I’m equal parts jealus and disgusted at how rich people live… more jealous though.

  30. Wow. I bought myself new undies yesterday when I realised I’d had the old ones since the Howard Government. And with that little purchase I felt blessed and lucky and wealthy. Poor Forbes.

    • Hay Betti, nice to see you here again. Very sorry to read about your dog xx

  31. I guess the rich aren’t all that different from us after all.

  32. This sounds like one of the stupid corporate retreats that my old job use to throw back when I worked there. Bet they still go on.

  33. One of the reasons I have chosen to not be enormously wealthy…those parties with the antler chandeliers are just not my thing 😛

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