The Profile: Wall Street’s best dealmaker & the tourists stuck at the top of the world

Good morning, friends!

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is now in theaters. The film is based on Tom Junod’s 1998 Esquire profile "Can You Say... Hero?" It’s about a cynical journalist who profiles Fred Rogers in an attempt to reveal a not-so-nice side of the world’s nicest man. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. Junod entered Rogers’ world with his “heart [feeling] like a spike” and left with it opening and feeling “like an umbrella.” 

Junod, who was known as a ruthlessness reporter, recently reflected on how the time he spent with Mister Rogers overhauled his personal and professional life. Rogers kept a file on Junod, in which he laid out four principles of journalism that he hoped he would stick to: 1) Journalists are human beings not stenographers, human beings not automatons. 2) Point out injustice when you have to. 3) Point out beauty when you can. 4) Be aware of celebrating the wonders of creation.

In the profile, Junod recounts a time when Mister Rogers agreed to write a manual intended to teach doctors how to talk to children. He enlisted one of his in-house writers, Hedda Sharapan, for the project. She worked hard on writing the chapter and then presented what she had written to Mister Rogers. He read it and crossed out her opening, replacing it with a single sentence addressed directly to the doctors who would be reading it: “You were a child once, too.”

This sentence is the reason Junod believes Rogers was so powerful in connecting with everyone — from children to politicians to CEOs to celebrities to educators. “It was also the basis of his strange superpowers,” Junod writes. “He wanted us to remember what it was like to be a child so that he could talk to us; he wanted to talk to us so that we could remember what it was like to be a child.”

At first, when the countless articles, movies, and documentaries came out about Mister Rogers, I was confused about why everyone was suddenly so enthusiastic. I didn’t remember it being this way when Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was actually airing. Yet today, people say stuff like this: “It is arguable that all religions could be replaced with the philosophy of Fred Rogers and the world would be better for it.”

After consuming a whole lot of content about Fred Rogers, I realized that I didn’t understand because I hadn’t asked myself this question: “Why now?” The answer is that we live in a polarized neighborhood in which, well, we don’t like our neighbors very much. We yearn for community yet we isolate ourselves from people whose views don’t align with our own.

Junod says he is often asked what Rogers would have made of Donald Trump, what he would have made of Twitter, and what he would’ve made of our time in general. Here’s Junod’s answer: 

The question isn’t what Fred would do, what Fred would say, in the face of outrage and horror, because Fred was the most stubbornly consistent of men. He would say that Donald Trump was a child once too. He would say that the latest Twitter victim or villain was a child once too. He would even say that the mass murderers of El Paso and Dayton were children once too—that, in fact, they were very nearly still children, at 21 and 24 years old, respectively—and he would be heartbroken that children have become both the source and the target of so much animus. He would pray for the shooters as well as for their victims, and he would continue to urge us, in what has become one of his most oft quoted lines, to “look for the helpers.” 

Of course, Rogers existed in a different world, one that many kids growing up today would find nearly impossible to recognize. But his message still holds true — civility and kindness is paramount, especially in the face of hate and horror. Because all of us were children once, too. 

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PS: The Profile Global Meetup is happening next weekend (December 13-15). The following cities have solid groups of Profile readers who plan to meet up: New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Atlanta, Raleigh, Miami, Dallas, London, and Toronto. If you’re nearby and interested in attending, reply to this email and I’ll connect you with the organizer for more details.

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Now, on to this week’s profiles:

Wall Street’s best dealmaker [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The tourists stuck at the top of the world
— The last of the celebrity newspapermen
— Mister Rogers’ better half
— Hollywood’s longest-reigning queen
— Tik-Tok’s Amish stars
— The most grounded actor in Hollywood
— The luggage brand hiding its own baggage
— The drug giant under attack


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PEOPLE TO KNOW.

Wall Street’s best dealmaker: Few outside of finance have heard of the 49-year-old Orlando Bravo, but he is the driving force behind Wall Street’s hottest firm, which has $39 billion in assets: Thoma Bravo. Bravo has sold or listed 25 investments worth a total of $20 billion, four times their cost. His secret? He invests only in well-established software companies, especially those with clearly discernible moats. (Forbes)

“In order to realign the business and set it up for big-time growth, you first need to take a step back before you take a step forward. It’s like boxing.”

The tourists stuck at the top of the world: You probably saw that infamous, viral photo of Mount Everest that showed a traffic jam on the summit ridge. But there’s a sinister, deadly side to the seemingly innocent snapshot. This story delves into the untold accounts of the people who witnessed the chaos that ensued that day at 29,000 feet. (GQ)

“Let's not make it a tourist mountain. Let's not spoil it even more [and] reduce it to dead people and tourists.”

The last of the celebrity newspapermen: Pete Hamill is a living archetype of a dying breed, the celebrity newspaperman. Hamill was famous enough that in 1977, The New York Daily News outed him for dating Jackie Onassis. When he was a star reporter, he wrote acclaimed novels and mingled with movie stars. He interviewed legends like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Che Guevara, and palled around with Robert F. Kennedy. This is a great profile of a master profiler. (The New York Times)

“I grew up with what I call the ‘Tenement Commandments.’ One of them was, ‘Remember where you’re from.’”

Mister Rogers’ better half: You loved Mister Rogers. Did you know there is also a Mrs. Rogers? At 91, she tends to his legacy, often reads his love letters, and played a key role in the development of the new Tom Hanks’ movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” But she says, we’ve put Fred Rogers on a pedestal since his death. And she wants you to know that he wasn’t a saint — and it’s better that way. (LA Times)

“People invariably say, ‘Well, I can’t do that, but I sure do admire him. I would love to do it.’ Well, you can do it. I’m convinced there are lots of Fred Rogerses out there.”

Hollywood’s longest-reigning queen: Jamie Lee Curtis is Hollywood royalty. Now, she’s busy prooting her new film, the murder mystery “Knives Out.” In this wide-randing Q&A, she speaks about opiate addiction, Hollywood beauty standards, and her foray into writing books for children. (The New Yorker)

“Painkillers, alcohol—it is the balm that heals people when they are so traumatized.”

Tik-Tok’s Amish stars: Amish TikTok users may seem like an oxymoron, but that’s exactly what makes them popular. Social media offers them the same opportunity everyone has — to tell their stories on their own terms to people they don’t know. One Amish teen says she thinks being Amish and being on TikTok are compatible, even though “most Amish don’t agree with photos much less videos. They believe it is a sign of vanity or pride.” (The Cut)

“I think people are fascinated by our lifestyle, because it’s a simpler way of having a successful life.”

The most grounded actor in Hollywood: In this profile, the Esquire writer follows Michael B. Jordan around the halls of his old high school in New Jersey. For nearly 20 years now, Jordan has been making the experiences of American black men legible to the wide world, the writer notes. His latest project? A film called Just Mercy, which is about a lawyer who has devoted his life to fighting for justice for people who have been wrongfully convicted. (Esquire)

"If you're trying to be successful, and home don't support you, what happens when the world turns its back on you? But if your home still respects you, they'll always be there."

COMPANIES TO WATCH.

The luggage brand hiding its own baggage: Employees of luggage brand Away bought into a vision of travel and inclusion. But as is often the case with high-flying, fast-growing startups, things look much different behind the scenes. This is the dramatic tale of intimidation tactics, manipulative behavior, and a culture of toxicity — all trickling down from the company’s top executives. (The Verge)

“Never work for your dream brand. It’ll kill you.”

The drug giant under attack: A Russian cyberattack brought global drugmaker Merck to its knees. It crippled more than 30,000 laptop and desktop computers, as well as 7,500 servers. Merck did what any of us would do: It turned to its insurers. After all, the company was covered to the tune of $1.75 billion for risks including the destruction of computer data, coding, and software. So it was stunned when most of its 30 insurers and reinsurers denied coverage under those policies. Why? Because Merck’s property policies specifically excluded another class of risk: an act of war. (Bloomberg)

“When the president of the United States comes out and says, ‘It’s Russia,’ it’s going to be hard to fight.” 


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