Media Lifeline: Forbes

As the business title celebrates its 90th year, can it keep pace with the burning issues of the day?

1917: B C Forbes, a globe-trotting Scotsman who'd become the leading business columnist for Hearst newspapers, strikes out on his own with the launch of a new magazine aimed at America's business elite. Under the Forbes masthead of the launch issue, there's a promise to publish fortnightly at a cover price of 15c - plus a proud legend: "Devoted to Doers and Doings."

1964: The magazine is now firmly established as a family institution. On B C Forbes' death in 1954, his son Bruce had become the president; and in 1964 Bruce was, in turn, succeeded by his brother, Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, who modestly assumed the title of editor-in-chief and publisher.

1990: And when Malcolm dies in 1990, he is succeeded by his son - Malcolm Junior, known to his friends as Steve. The title's hardline right-wing stance has seen its reputation boosted throughout the Reagan years, and its profile is further enhanced when Steve seeks the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 and again in 2000.

2005: But this rock-steady institution now enters a period of relative turbulence. As Steve prepares to sell 40 per cent of the company to a private equity firm (the deal is done in 2006), ostensibly to provide investment for more rapid expansion, Forbes suffers a setback when it closes its global edition.

2007: Forbes celebrates its 90th anniversary with an issue focusing on networking. In a series of articles by eminent new-media gurus, including the MySpace founder Chris De Wolfe, it advances a controversial theory that, compared with an early 20th-century comms infrastructure comprised of telegraph wires and railways, our digital world is more advanced.

Fast forward ...

2009: Now speculation grows that the Forbes family might sever its connections with the title it has created. For two years, it had been maintaining a defensive coalition with great business publishing family, the Bancroft family, which controls Dow Jones, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal. Now, as Rupert Murdoch ups the ante, both institutions seem likely to fall prey to his charms.