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Malcolm Forbes


International Motorcycling Ambassador

Millionaire publisher Malcolm Forbes was a larger-than-life character. He was a politician, art collector, sportsman, internationally famous balloonist and motorcyclist. During the 1970s and '80s, Forbes put a new face on motorcycling. Largely due to his highly publicized international motorcycle trips with Hollywood celebrities, business leaders and the press, Forbes helped changed the general public’s perceptions of what motorcyclists and motorcycling were all about. He showed that motorcycling was not only socially acceptable behavior, but even a highly desirable pastime for people of all social walks.

The third son of B.C. and Adelaide Forbes, Malcolm Stevenson Forbes was born in New York City on August 19, 1919. His father founded Forbes magazine in 1917. At the time, it was the only business magazine in the United States.

Growing up in Englewood, N.J., Forbes’ family experienced good times and bad. Things went quite well for them until the Depression. During the 1930’s, Forbes’ father barely kept the magazine alive, often making payroll by borrowing against the family’s assets.

After graduating cum laude from Lawrenceville School in New Jersey in 1937, he enrolled at Princeton, where he majored in political science. While at Princeton, he was awarded the Class of 1901 Medal "as the member of the class who contributed the most to Princeton as an undergraduate." While he was in school, Forbes worked summers in the mailroom at the Forbes publishing offices.

Of education, Forbes was quoted as saying, "Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one."

After receiving a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his bravery at the Battle of Aachen in World War II, he joined the family publishing business. He won the Republican nomination for Governor of New Jersey in 1957, but was defeated in the election by Democrat Robert Meyner. In 1957, he also became editor and publisher of the magazine founded by his father.

Forbes magazine was floundering when he took over, but under his management, circulation and profits soared, making him a multimillionaire. He became known for his extravagant parties and colorful hobbies, from hot-air ballooning to collecting Fabergé eggs.

Forbes took up motorcycling in the late 1960s. He purchased a motorcycle dealership in New Jersey that became one of the largest in the country. Forbes became a leading goodwill ambassador for the sport of motorcycling. His international riding trips were covered extensively not only by motorcycle magazines, but also by the mainstream media.

Forbes made his thoughts on motorcycles and politics quite clear.

"I think legislative assaults on motorcyclists are totally emotional, disproportionate and totally unfair... They are instigated and implemented by people who know nothing about motorcycling, but have a prejudice. It's easy to curb the freedoms of others when you see no immediate impact on your own."

In 1973, Forbes became the first person to fly successfully from coast to coast in one hot air balloon. He planned a more spectacular feat in 1974, a trip across the Atlantic, but it ended in failure when a group line was accidentally tripped, releasing the balloons into the air before final preparations for the launch were completed.

Forbes was described by an interviewer at Newsday as genial and witty and lacking the aura of barely controlled tension evident in many corporate heads.

Forbes was awarded the AMA Hazel Kolb Brighter Image Award in 1987, the Association's highest award for activities that generate good publicity for motorcycling.

Forbes died on February 24, 1990. He and his wife, Roberta, had five children. His son, Malcolm Jr. (known as Steve) became President and CEO of Forbes, Inc. in 1990.