UPDATE: Oct. 11 ― The Monica Langley curse has struck again.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal’s Langley reported that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff wanted to buy the “unpolished jewel” that is Twitter. Salesforce’s stock promptly plummeted, and Benioff backed off the bidding. So Twitter’s stock tanked, too.
For the background behind the Langley curse, read the story below.
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CLEVELAND ― As Eric Trump was set to begin his high-profile speech Wednesday night, he looked over and saw a familiar face. “Good luck,” said Monica Langley, a Wall Street Journal reporter who covers his father, Donald Trump.
Langley is a “senior special writer” at the Journal, and she clarifies in her Twitter bio that she writes “page-one profiles of CEOs, billionaires, presidential candidates and key news figures.”
She’s been known for her glowing coverage of Donald Trump this campaign season, which has been returned with tremendous access, private plane rides, and, at least according to Eric, some love, too. (Scroll through her Twitter feed for a flavor of its requital.) But Trump shouldn’t necessarily celebrate the positive coverage, because a Langley profile has, in the past, often come with something reminiscent of the curse of the Sports Illustrated cover.
Just as terrible things have befallen figures unlucky enough to have graced the cover of SI, let’s take a look at what’s happened to the subjects of some of Langley’s most ambitious profiles.
Her 2003 book Tearing Down The Walls: How Sandy Weill Fought His Way to the Top of the Financial World ... And Nearly Lost It All is a hagiography of Citigroup’s Weill, and the wall-breaking in the title is a reference to his lead role in knocking down barriers that had separated different corners of the financial system. “The economic ramifications of the financial industry’s reorganization are hardly touched on, and the effects of Weill’s draconian cost-cutting on the rank-and-file who bore the brunt of it are treated as an untroubling prerequisite to rising productivity and share-holder value,” Publisher’s Weekly presciently wrote at the time. “Langley’s book is informative and highly readable, but there’s a much bigger story to be told.”
Weill is now widely credited as bearing some of the greatest responsibility for creating the conditions that led to the financial crisis in 2008.
And then there was the major December 2014 profile “NFL’s Roger Goodell Seeks to Right Past Wrongs.” That one doesn’t really need any commentary. Let’s just keep moving.
We can probably move right past the flattering look at the role of Corey Lewandowski, too.
But let’s pause on Target Chief Executive Gregg Steinhafel, who was the subject of a flattering profile on Feb. 18, 2014, about his effective handling of the company’s data breach. A month later, the Journal reported that Target would pay a $10 million class-action settlement over the 2013 information theft, and about six weeks after that, Steinhafel was canned for his handling of the company’s data breach.
Colleen Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the Journal, flatly denied the existence of a Langley curse. “Monica Langley is an award-winning reporter who frequently interviews politicians and executives as they are facing challenges that are not caused by her reporting,” she said.
A quick Google search didn’t turn up any Langley profiles of Elizabeth Holmes, but as activist investor Bill Ackman faced a $2 billion loss on his hedge fund’s bet in the drug-seller Valeant, he turned to Langley for a sympathetic profile.
“The Valeant bet has been stressful for Mr. Ackman, a health-and-fitness buff who plays tennis competitively, contends that ‘sugar is poison’ and this year attended a training camp run by former Navy SEALs. These days he is considering adding meditation and yoga to his regimen,” Langley reported in November 2015.
Most of the profile was turned over to Ackman to describe how aggressively he had pushed the head of Valeant to right his ship. The story ends with Ackman saying, “The reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated.”
At the time, Valeant’s share price had plummeted from over $300 to around $115. Today it’s trading for 32 bucks.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump