It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that on the night I first met Kurt Eichenwald he nearly got me divorced. We’d tried at the magazine years ago to get Kurt to write for us. One staffer had even played the St. Mark’s card, since Kurt and the staffer (Adam McGill, if you must know) both graduated from that fine school. But Kurt was under contract with the New York Times, where he worked for 20 years. For those scoring at home, he was also a Pulitzer finalist and has written three best-selling books, most notably the Enron epic Conspiracy of Fools. Anyway, we’d tried to get Kurt and failed.
Then, last spring, I committed a transgression for which I’m now grateful. During the early stages of the Dallas Press Club scandal, I wondered on our blog about whether Elizabeth Albanese had committed a felony while in the service of that organization. Kurt saw the post and sent me an e-mail gently pointing out that I was a lousy journalist, since “accusations—even implied accusations—of crime, if they prove to be false, are libel per se, a very treacherous bit of territory to be traversing.” A lengthy exchange followed. The only way I could win it was to offer to buy the man a beer.
We met after work. As I remember it, Kurt ordered a Diet Coke, I asked him how things were going, he took a deep breath—and then he told a four-hour story about his adventures at the Times, about why he’d left, about where he was working now, and about his life. Religion also came up. So, you know, he covered the basics.
Kurt is a fantastic storyteller. He had me rapt. But that quick beer was taking longer than expected, so periodically I left the table to call my wife. First I told her I would be a little late. “Can you pick up both kids?” Then, next call, I broke the news that I’d miss dinner. “But, honey,” I told her, “it’s Kurt Eichenwald. And the stories he’s got, really. They’re amazing.” The call after that one was not pleasant. Nor was my wife’s mood when I did finally get home, after the kids were already asleep. Note to all spouses in a similar spot: resist the temptation to employ the “Do you know what I do?” defense. It never works. Just apologize. Then apologize again.
Kurt ended our evening by again saying that he’d like to write for us someday but citing the same contractual obligations that prevented him from doing so. You can guess, though, what happened just a few months later. Someday arrived. Kurt entered free agency, and he just happened to have a story perfectly suited to D Magazine.
I won’t give too much away by telling you Kurt says it’s one of the strangest stories he’s ever reported. It’s about a man who came to town and convinced the largest private commercial real estate services firm in the state to broker a bogus $100 million deal for him. Then—without actually scamming any real money, with no apparent endgame—he vanished.
Professionally, I’m pleased to publish Kurt’s story, which you’ll find here. But on a personal level, I’m overjoyed that I finally have proof that the late night those months ago was really about work and not just an excuse to have another beer.
Small victories. Brought to you by D and Kurt Eichenwald.
Write to [email protected].