by Kiara Ashanti
America does not have a royal line. We have no kings and queens, but that does not stop us from collectively anointing people to that status. We do it to sports stars, Hollywood actors, and actresses – we even give the status to CEOs and business leaders. As the DOW moved up to historic heights not seen even during the Internet bubble, Marcus Greaves began showcasing traders and business dealmakers in his magazines, Trader Monthly and Dealmaker (along with two other titles) under his media company, Doubledown Media, which targeted luxury consumers. His magazines focused on the life, money, and business of persons often given Demigod status in America—WallStreet moneymakers and Gordon Gecko wannabes. Both publications were popular, but like the P&L statements of the traders they followed, crashed after the market meltdown. He wasn’t down for long though. Earlier this year, he co-founded MyMag, an unusual take on magazines. We talked with Greaves about his company’s sudden rise, and fall, and why he thinks he’s got a better mousetrap for the magazine industry.
I wanted to start off with your background. You started off as a trader. Is that correct?
I did. I grew up in Canada, but I moved to London when I was 19 because I wanted to work as a futures trader in the open outcry pits. So I ended up on the London Futures Exchange when I was 20, and I traded for UBS initially and then I left and started my own company with a couple of other friends. That company was called MAC Futures. We started that company in 1998, and then we built it up to over ten offices around the world; 500 traders and we sold it to Refco in 2003.
Many people believe trading is exciting and with the money that comes with trading I mean, why would you leave the industry?
I loved the world of trading and I was fascinated by the world of media so I wanted to find a way to combine the two. You know, I traveled around the world. I met thousands and thousands of traders, and I realized there were common denominators among them and so it would be interesting to have a piece of media that brought the trading world together.
Then as I investigated, I understood that it was an advertising based business. There is no group of people on the planet that makes more money and spends more money than traders. [It was a] dream as far as the advertising side of it goes. And so that is kind of how I made the jump. So although I entered the world of media it was within a community that I felt very, very comfortable in. There was no singular piece of media for that community and so I wanted to be the person that created it.
But, how did you go about setting up in a new industry where no one knew you? In particular, how did you talk to traders who are notorious for not wanting to talk about how much money they are actually making?
Right, the money side of it was only one part of the editorial angle. I think that is the one that is the most exciting, and some people sensationalize it but we were talking about what it was like to be a trader and the ups and downs with that and the psychology and how people deal with people being a trader. So it came from a very genuine place.
Having been in the trading community for a long time, getting the traders to talk was not difficult. Also, we weren’t packaging it to sell it outside the trading community so with those things in place people felt comfortable talking to us and sharing their stories.
You know, as far as having successfully run one business and trying to apply that to another, there are two sides to it. I learned a lot from my first company and I could apply many lessons to setting up the magazine company, but on the other hand I had to appreciate that it was a completely new industry. Therefore, I went and hired a tutor from The London College of Printing. I read every book that I could about how you start a magazine. I went and bought thousands of magazines and just studied them. I went and met people. I went online. I had to find a partner who was experienced in the publishing industry and have him help me work to build up the team so that we could actually start to create magazines. It took time, but I was thirsty for a new challenge and I like research. I like getting information so it was really a lot of fun.
One of the first lessons people may share is don’t be afraid to bring in a partner or get help in the industry so you don’t have to try to do it all yourself.
If you’re going to go to a new area you need to find a partner who is experienced, but you just can’t rely on that person to know everything for you. You still have to do the hard work and get up to speed. Partnering is definitely a great strategy for entering a new industry.
Okay, so you had Trader Monthly, you had Dealmaker and a few other magazines as well; they all seemed to come out at relatively the same time. Did that cause problems doing 3-4 different magazines all at once?
We had a central model, which was basically a sort of a Business Lifestyle and the controlled circulation model we had proved to be really successful. We were talking to advertisers about high end market opportunities anyhow. So we had one side of Wall Street which was the traders, and then we went to the other side of Wall Street which was the deal makers. So, you know, it made a lot of sense.
Then we went out, and we created a magazine called, Corporate Leader, which was about the top executives. We purchased and relaunched a magazine called Private Air. A lot of our readers were private aviation users, so that seemed to make a lot of sense as well. Then we launched another title, which was Cigar Report. Many of our guys smoked cigars, so again it all made sense and then we expanded into the UK.
London is the financial center of Europe and perhaps the world so that made a lot of sense and things were starting to heat up in Dubai. Then we went out and formed a partnership out in Dubai as well. The growth that we did geographically and within the different high end financial communities made much sense.