Joe Mysak is Retiring

Joe Mysak is Retiring

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When Joe Mysak was fired as the editor of the Bond Buyer in 1994, the staff stood on their desks and applauded as he left the building.

He appreciated the homage to the scene in Dead Poets Society, a film which had come out a few years earlier. It seemed a fitting tribute given all the people he had mentored.

It seemed a fitting tribute given all the people he mentored over those years.

Bond Buyer management didn’t appreciate what they had. No reason for the sacking was given. Joe later said: “Everyone knew a grave injustice had been committed.”

Even at the time, Joe was considered among the most knowledgeable and influential voices on municipal finance.

He literally wrote the book on the topic, twice. There was “Handbook for Muni-Bond Issuers” and “Encyclopedia of Municipal Bonds: A Reference Guide to Market Events, Structures, Dynamics, and Investment Knowledge.”

After leaving, Joe spent five years working with Jim Grant, and then in 1999, Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief Matt Winkler hired him to write a column. Later, I tapped him to launch a Bloomberg newsletter about munis.

Joe recently announced his plans to retire at the end of June.

Over lunch at Harry’s at Hanover Square, Joe told me he realized that after more than four decades there was “nothing left in the tank.” It was time.

Joe is, I believe, one of the few to officially retire from Bloomberg News after spending a long career there.

Plenty of Bloomberg journalists have quit and plenty more have been fired. A number have even died. Dave Wilson was another editor who retired a couple years ago.

It speaks to Joe’s skill at writing and tenacity.

I worked with Joe directly for two extended stretches. When he was first hired, I was the New York Bureau Chief. Later, he joined a newsletter group I managed. Joe’s publication was the most financially successful of two dozen Bloomberg created.

Joe reported to me, but I didn’t manage him because you don’t manage people like Joe.

Joe reported to me, but I didn’t manage him because you don’t manage people like Joe.

You leave them alone and let them do what they do so well. It’s something that is increasingly hard to find in a modern world driven by clicks and metrics.

Joe looks at the world through the lens of municipal finance. Where you and I see a bridge or highway or stadium, he sees the bond sale behind the project and what it cost taxpayers.

He finds tidbits that tell tales. Like the details buried in a $14 million offering of Hawaiian housing bonds or a $60 million deal to improve the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument in Kearney, Nebraska.

He understands it is often the small things that make the big stories.

He has “the ability to find stories and create stories out of things that seemingly had no story,” said former portfolio manager, longtime muni observer and columnist Barnet Sherman.

Joe plans to spend some retirement time going through papers left by the late writer Tom Wolfe, author of Bonfire of the Vanities. He and Wolfe became friends after Joe provided feedback for the manuscript.

He is sure there are small gems of insight buried in the stacks.


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