In his first editor’s letter in Fortune magazine—in the issue dated June 9, 1986—Marshall Loeb was all business. He touted a story about a revived tax reform bill, promoted the magazine’s list of the 500 largest American service companies, and gave a nod to an associate editor’s forthcoming child. There was nary a word about himself, a man described by others as “tireless and hard driving.”
Loeb, of course, was no stranger to Fortune publisher Time Inc when he ascended to the top of the magazine’s masthead. He spent 14 years at Time magazine before joining Money magazine in 1980. He was 56 years old and very much a known quantity in the Time-Life Building in Midtown Manhattan when he became the editor of Fortune. As with the publications before him, he left it transformed.
On Saturday, Loeb died in Manhattan at age 88. The cause was Parkinson’s disease.
This publication is forever indebted to Loeb, who began his journalism career as a teenage sportswriter in Chicago. Loeb turned the then-biweekly Fortune into a must-read for executives, with coverlines that feel as fresh online today as they were for the printed magazine then: “The Deal That Made Bill Gates, Age 30, $350 Million,” “How This Man Manages $69 Billion,” “How to Get Customers to Love You,” “Why Women Still Aren’t Getting to the Top.”
Loeb’s Fortune was more profitable and diverse in scope than that of his predecessors. He expanded the magazine’s use of graphical elements (charts, tables, and the like) as he reinforced its commitment to long-form business journalism. Loeb departed eight years later—a tenure topped by only two Fortune editors before him and none since—leaving behind a constellation of editorial stars at Fortune, Money, and Time.
In the coming days we plan to publish remembrances from some of them. Stay tuned.