The Profile: The master of spin & the birth of a billionaire

Good morning, friends!

There’s one story you should know about my friend Mariana Heredia. We met at the University of Georgia where we both worked on our student newspaper. One day, I walked by her desk and noticed a tiny post-it stuck to the bottom of her computer screen. It read: “TO DO: save  newspapers.” When I joked about it, she was serious — it was on her to do list.

Fast forward to today, she’s doing it. And it’s not just newspapers — she’s going after the hairy beast that is the media industry. Mariana launched her company last week, and I’m excited to share it with you guys. It’s called Fenix, and it offers a new way to support the high-quality, investigative journalism we all crave. It bypasses advertisers and counts on the readers themselves to crowdfund the stories they want to read.

On the site is a must-read profile written by fellow Profile subscriber Hayden Field. It’s about a father-son duo that completed the first-ever expedition to the South Pole powered solely by clean, renewable energy. Now, the son is taking it a step further and trying to mobilize the rest of us to clean up 360 million tons of carbon dioxide over the next six years. Read the full story here.

I encourage you to check out Fenix, and support the quality stories you want to read.


LET’S MEET: P.S: I’ll be at SXSW next weekend, so send me a note if you will too, and we can meet in real life.

Speaking of quality journalism, it was out of control this week with a total of eight fire profiles. I hope you enjoy.  

— The master of spin [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— Facebook’s first responders
— The opioid rehab recruiters
The celebrity psychic SWAT team
— The exiled coach
The rebel with a cause
— The keeper of Beyoncé’s secrets
— The birth of a billionaire

If you enjoy reading profiles of the most successful people and companies, click here to tweet so others can enjoy it too.


The master of spin: Michael Sitrick will be your best friend and your worst enemy. He’s easy to love and easier to fear. And he heads one of the most expensive PR firms in the business, with a rate reported to be $1,100 an hour. This is the story of the public relations puppet master who has pulled the strings behind some of the biggest stories in media. Mind-blowing profile.

Each story has the same elements—but if stacked differently, they can offer different scenarios. Which one do you want to believe?”

Facebook’s first responders: This is one of those stories that stays with you for a long, long time. Facebook’s content moderators are responsible for reviewing every piece of content reported for violating the company’s community standards. Their job is to watch videos of suicides, stabbings, murders, and all sorts of other disturbing content you and I never see. As a result, employees are developing stress disorders and PTSD from observing traumatic experiences for hours on end every single day.

“If we weren’t there doing that job, Facebook would be so ugly.”

The opioid rehab recruiters: It’s a given in the world of addiction treatment that relapses are likely obstacles on the road to recovery. But for rehab owners and brokers who make money each time a patient is admitted, relapses can be a profit center. It’s called the “Florida shuffle,” a cycle where recovering users are wooed aggressively by rehabs and freelance “patient brokers” in an effort to fill beds and collect insurance money. This 9-month investigation is well worth your time.

“These are innocent people with a substance use disorder lured to Florida under false pretenses, only to leave in an ambulance or a body bag.”

The celebrity psychic SWAT team: There are nearly 95,000 psychic “businesses” in America, generating some $2 billion in revenue in 2018. Lately, technology has changed the business of talking to the dead and created new kinds of openings for psychics to lure customers but also new ways for skeptics to flip that technology right back at them. Now, a group of online vigilantes are busting celebrity psychics they refer to as “grief vampires.”

“We were all wrapped in rich, old memories of aching pain. Maybe dead spirits aren’t real. But these emotions were.”

The exiled coach: In 2017, Rick Pitino’s career collapsed under a string of scandals, leading to his firing from the school he had coached for 16 years. Now, the legendary Louisville coach is finding himself in Greece, coaching basketball team Panathinaikos, working for a self-styled Bond villain, and enjoying a new (albeit lonely) chapter of his life.

“This is actually a fun place to be in my mind because I have no clue what’s going to happen to me in a month.”

The rebel with a cause: In the time between Hannah Montana and now, Miley Cyrus has experienced nearly every kind of attention this world is capable of giving. She went from America’s teen sweetheart to a rebellious (and often naked) 20-something in a very short period of time. Even to this day, she’s still trying to find herself, to figure out who Miley Cyrus really is.

“I have that tendency to just let my brain drive me, to let my wild fucking thoughts just drive me. But I really want to be the pilot of my decisions.”

The keeper of Beyoncé’s secrets: As Beyoncé's longtime publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure knows everything. She’s the PR machine behind the Bey empire, and she takes a maternal approach that is increasingly uncommon in the world of publicity. In this wide-ranging profile, Noel-Schure explains why her high-power client refuses to do interviews with the press anymore.

“My husband thinks he’s married to the head of the C.I.A. I think part of my longevity is that I could be trusted.”


The birth of a billionaire: In light of Lyft filing for its IPO, I wanted to share this profile of a young, 30-year-old Bill Gates preparing to take Microsoft public in 1986. ”All Bill’s ego goes into Microsoft,” said a friend. ”It’s his firstborn child.” This profile from the archives will put everything in perspective.

“I hate the whole thing. All I’m thinking and dreaming about is selling software, not stock.”