I've just finished a personal tour de force:
completing, in about 80 days, Robert Caro's The Years of Lyndon
Johnson series-a feat of writing on his part
that now stretches north of 3,500 pages and is only now entering
the period when Johnson actually became President. It has taken
Caro 36 years to get to this point. He still has four years of
Johnson's presidency to go, along with his retirement.
The first question everyone has asked when I tell them I'm
reading this series is "Is LBJ worth that many
He is. I had often wondered that too, but within the first 150
pages of the first book (The Path to Power)--where Caro describes the desperate
geography of Johnson's Texas Hill-Country upbringing--I understood
why. It is not surprising that someone like John Kennedy--born into
wealth, surrounded by wealth and the wealthy, educated in
accordance with that wealth--would become President. It is, however,
extremely unlikely that a dirt-poor, uneducated boy from a
disrespected family in rural Texas would rise to become the most
powerful man on earth. That is why it is so fascinating.
The question of how is what Caro is answering with
these 3,500 pages-on one level. On a much more fundamental level,
however, these books are treatise on power-the acquisition and
usage of power in America. Johnson himself knew that he was not the
smartest man in politics; he did, however, understand better than
perhaps anyone in 20th century American politics
where power lay, and how to acquire it.
I don't write about finishing Caro's opus to show everyone that
I have less of a social life than some may believe (it takes a long
time to read that many pages, and they are not Harry Potter-esque
in either the number of words-per-page or substance). I write
because the aiCIO editorial team--soon to be
buttressed with a new member come Monday (Assistant Editor Leanna
Orr)--is in the middle of our most intense project yet, one that we
believe will come to define this magazine.
It is our Power 100.
In our April issue, we profiled 40 exemplary asset owners-men
and women at the world's pensions, endowments, foundations,
insurance, and sovereign funds-under the age of 40. To decide upon,
then interview, then have painted, then publish 40 interviews with
CIOs and their employees was not an easy task. There were some late
nights. There were some screaming matches. There were some angry
calls from our London bureau, run by the (almost always)
indefatigable Elizabeth Pfeuti.
But it worked-and it worked very well. And so, in early May, I
came up with a new challenge: for aiCIO to create a list
of the 100 most powerful individuals working at pensions, E&Fs,
insurance funds, and sovereign wealth funds. And then rank them.
And then have them painted. And then publish them in our October
issue and online, not in one go, but over a week, so that every
hour a new member (#100…..#99….#98…) would be revealed, all the way
down to the most powerful asset owner on earth.
We're deep into this work now. There exists, on my computer, the
master-list. It is not yet complete, but it is close. Managing
Editor Paula Vasan, Ms. Pfeuti, BentheIntern, and I have created
this list with the help of twenty or thirty sources-people who
truly understand, like Johnson, where the power resides in the
world of asset owning. We have just started to notify people on
this list, and are starting to interview them for their written
profile. One artist is at work painting 100 portraits. The ranking
of the list has yet to begin, but ideas are forming.
It's something you should look forward to, because it will be
the most impressive thing aiCIO has done in our three
short years. We look forward to your reaction when the end of
October roles around.