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)

Category: Media

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9 Responses to “A Few Words About Alan Abelson”

  1. flocktard says:

    I enjoyed that unique perfection of wry snark that Alan Abelson brought to his weekly column for decades. The column never failed to produce a smirk on your face, which you felt surely must have mirrored his own, as he wrote about the more preposterous aspects of the market and it’s participants. His pen was as sharp as any scalpel. After the 2008 debacle, somehow the cynicism wasn’t amusing anymore. For me, what Mr. Abelson wrote about turned out not to be so much a story about foibles, and ostensibly smart people doing foolish things, but in hindsight, a weekly diary of a very dangerous and dishonest undertaking that brought ruin to millions. There is nothing wry or witty or amusing about human misery, or a national future that holds all of the promise of a wet matchstick.

    I still subscribe to Barron’s – how the old printed dog has stayed around for so long beats me- I would think it MUST lose money. But it is a voice of a past that has long gone, and an ethic that no longer resonates, or even matters, despite the bleatings of it’s other columnists.

  2. [...] long time Barron’s columnist Alan Abelson.  (Barron’s, TRB, Big Picture, Talking Biz News, [...]

  3. James Kostohryz says:

    Alan Ableson was truly a master. His mastery of the pen is the envy of every writer on any subject.

    A personal anecdote may say something about him: When I was in law school looking for a job in the investment world (a real long-shot), I wrote a letter to Ableson asking if he could introduce me to Jim Rogers, whom he had recently quoted in his column. I didn’t expect to hear back from this super-star of finance. But, I did. He wrote back to me and provided Jim Roger’s address, with Roger’s prior consent. Nothing came of it in terms of a job for me, but I have remained eternally grateful. It was a completely unnecessary act of kindness from a giant to a nobody. Its the kind of detail that stands out in your mind forever.

  4. VennData says:

    Read him for decades, shared wonderful notes with him. He will be missed.

  5. Tip Parker says:

    In the late 1990′s, Alan encouraged me to submit several “Other Voices” pieces to Barron’s about how baby boomers’ stock prices were inflating stock prices; why stocks were poor retirement investments; and why nearly all stock-based retirement plans for boomers were likely to fail. The pieces were published, and sadly for millions of boomers, they turned out to be correct.

  6. chris says:

    As a night worker some thirty years ago for 43 rd st. UPS i would pick up my copy of barrons on my way to subway about 6 am sat. morn.on my way to 8 th ave subway. I also picked up a pint of bud (in brown bag) for the weekend kickoff. By the time i was sitting on “A” train reading Alans lead article and enjoying my beverage as i would received looks of sorrow and pity from fellow morning riders as they look at this young man with dirty clothes drinking a beer at 6 am on sat. morning with beer spraying from my mouth as i could not control Alans beauty with words.He had a wit and sense of humor unmatched by any professional. God bless you Alan Abelson.

  7. [...] Last week, we remembered Barron’s columnist and editor, Alan Abelson (A Few Words About Alan Abelson). [...]