Marshall Loeb, pioneering business journalist and MarketWatch columnist, dies at 88
Marshall Loeb, a pioneering business journalist who turned Money magazine into a personal-finance juggernaut and later helped put a fledgling MarketWatch on the map as a personal-finance columnist, died on Saturday in New York. He was 88.
His daughter, Margaret Karen Loeb, told the New York Times her father died of complications from Parkinson’s disease.
After 12 years at Time magazine, Loeb took the helm at Money magazine in 1980, refocusing the publication on personal finance and turning around what had been a barely profitable venture. He nearly doubled the magazine’s circulation in just four years.
In 1986 he jumped to Fortune magazine and performed a similar rejuvenation there. He would also make his mark in radio and television, handing out personal-finance advice in five-minute and one-minute sound bites.
His book “Marshall Loeb’s Lifetime Financial Strategies” was published in 1995 and in 1996 he took over editing duties for the Columbia Journalism Review, while continuing his radio and TV work for the CBS networks.
On Jan. 4, 2000 his first column, “Marshal Loeb’s Investment Outlook,” appeared on MarketWatch, a relatively new financial news website that had gone public in 1999. Over the next 11 years he would continue to provide investing, personal-finance and general life advice to readers on topics ranging from taxes to stocks to careers to charitable giving. He tackled domestic political topics and international affairs as well.
In his penultimate column for MarketWatch, “Older Americans are a powerful consumer group,” he returned to a subject area that he came back to time and again: the needs of Americans 65 and up. Adding up the population and income numbers for this demographic, he argued, “suggests that this is a big audience to be tapped, especially for items in which they have shown strong interest and need, including travel, dining out, prescription medications and other health-related products and services.” He also wrote on the problem of elder abuse, the need to fight frailty and the financial needs of retirees.
In a July 2009 interview with Steve Gelsi of MarketWatch Loeb talked about his six decades in journalism, saying one of his favorite interviews was with South African leader Nelson Mandela just after he had been released from prison in 1990 after 27 years. He called him “one of the great African leaders of all time.”
He also interviewed Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, saying “in many respects he was a a tough guy, but also smooth and he saw the Soviet Union was on the skids and was willing to be more open. He was a great leader.”
Among America presidents, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman stand out for Loeb. “At a time when people were pushing pencils on the street, Roosevelt inspired the nation. Truman was spectacular; he took over unexpectedly and proceeded to make one decision after another that changed our world.”
As for the financial journalism that he helped reshape, he observed that in 2009 it had become much more sophisticated in the years since the rise of the internet. “It’s not enough anymore to just take what is given out in the way of handouts; we need to dig, dig dig and when there are frauds or failures it is our responsibility to dig them out and publicize them.”
According to the New York Times obituary, Loeb was born in Chicago on May 30, 1929. He grew up on the city’s “scruffy” West Side, as he called it. He graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism and immediately set out to see the world, starting with Germany, eventually landing a job with United Press in Frankfort. He also met his wife Irmingard (Peggy) Lowe, a Pan Am flight attendant, there and married her in 1954.
After the couple returned to the U.S., Loeb got a job with the St. Louis Globe Democrat. He eventually found his way to New York and a job with Time magazine, filling roles as business editor, national editor and economic editor before the move to Money.
Among his honors are two Gerald Loeb awards (no relation) that go to financial journalists, one of which was for lifetime achievement.
Loeb is survived by his daughter, a son Michael R. Loeb and six grandchildren. His wife died in 2010.