In the early 1970's, financial reporting and analysis was so rare that I could not even find a reference to what defined a bull and bear market. Fortunately there was PBS's Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser ("Welcome Back"), the Wall Street Journal and, on the weekend, Barron's "tabloid" magazine/newspaper. Bloomberg, FNN, CNBC and 24 hour financial news apps have brought the art of investing to the masses since.
At the nadir of financial information, there was Alan Abelson, the columnist and editor, at Barron's, whose vast vocabulary and network of unnamed sources was the first thing you came across after digesting the cover page.Abelson's prosaic wit and style was unmatched, soaring high above Rukeyser's lofty financial puns with which he peppered his monologue. I needed a dictionary whenever I poured through Alan's "Up and Down Wall Street" Column.
He was a perennial bear, skeptical of all the hype and glamour that is the traditional ware of most financial reporting. Yet, even when in his darkest den, he sculpted his incredulity with words of wisdom and offered the reader a little light hearted banter on why "it wasn't going to be different this time."
His network of analysts, money managers and investment gurus was endless. They often went nameless in his column, but if you look at their track record, they would likely have had a pretty solid batting average. His specific look at individual companies and their stocks' performance always had a little different angle in its approach.
In a world of boring numbers and ceaseless contradictory predictions, he concocted a comical cornucopia of considerable creativity, sometimes evoking, at least from me, some sidesplitting, LOL reactions to his wry metaphors on politics, world economics and wealth.
He was writing right up to the end, but in the last several months he was on the bench and I sensed something was awry, despite the italicized mention he received at the end of his column.
Alan taught all his faithful followers and most of his colleagues how to be shrewd, incisive investigators. He did it with personification (Lady Rumor) and alliteration that would have made Shakespeare proud.
Alan Abelson passed away last month. He will be sorely missed by anyone who ever read his droll, farcical view of our financial world.