Goodbye, Alan

Legendary Barron’s columnist Alan Abelson has passed away today at the age of 87.

I was at a conference with Michael Santoli a week ago and Alan had come up in conversation – Abelson hadn’t been filing his weekly Up & Down Wall Street columns regularly as he had since the 1960’s. Now we know why; because nothing but death itself could’ve possibly stopped him.

He was one of the greatest market commentators, financial writers and teachers in the history of Wall Street. There will be many eulogies for and remembrances of Alan this weekend, I am sure of it. So I’ll send you to his editor Ed Finn’s notice at Barron’s Online, but before that, below is one example (of thousands) of Mr. Abelson’s simultaneously biting and incandescent wit.

This particular quote is from a January 2009 column of his, during the heat of the financial crisis and the socioeconomic and cultural upheaval that had brought the Democrats back to power. Here’s Abelson’s take on George W. Bush’s farewell address:

“His message was straightforward, consistent and clear: Thanks to his vigilance, this nation was spared a terrorist attack after 9/11. And so it was, for which we are all profoundly grateful. And only the most vehement Bush-basher would sniff that the real reason for the absence of an attack was that Mr. Bush did such a thorough number on the country all by himself that the terrorists figured, why bother?”

There was more truth in Abelson’s curmudgeonly satire than you’ll find in all the research and rantings produced by the Wall Street machine that he covered so skeptically and humorously. He said what he thought and taught us all to think critically, especially when it counted – in times of wild-eyed, dangerous overconfidence.

Rest in Peace, Alan, and thanks for being an early influence on a whippersnapper like me. You can’t imagine how much I’ve learned from your writing over the last fifteen years.

Alan Abelson: 1925 to 2013 (Barron’s)


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