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In Hot Pursuit – Trish Regan

Trish Regan is not afraid to stand up and speak in front of large crowds. But the Bloomberg Television anchor didn’t overcome stage fright in the studio. As a teenager in New Hampshire Regan was on the fast track for a career in opera, training at the New England Conservatory of Music and The American Institute of Musical Studies in Austria.

“Whenever you’re naturally good at something you think you are going to pursue it,” said Regan during an interview at Bloomberg’s sleek midtown headquarters. But the artistic lifestyle had its drawbacks. “I was 20 years old and woke up and realized opera wasn’t what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life,” she said. “The opportunity cost, to use an economic phrase, is too significant. You’re walking around with your instrument, you are your instrument effectively.”

 Regan’s one-hour special on the out-of-office hobbies of global business titans including Richard Branson and Ronald Lauder, debuted October 15.

Regan buffed up her financial vocabulary during stints at Goldman Sachs and D.E. Shaw after she’d transferred to Columbia and dived into the study of economics, a major she chose thanks in no small part to fond recollections of discussions with her economist uncle. On the day Columbia accepted her, Regan also got a call from a German opera house she’d auditioned for offering her a contract and a series of plum roles with the company. “I had to make a decision, and knew there’d be no looking back.”

Any rear view glances are limited to opera house visits as Regan happily travels the world as a business journalist. An alumnus of CBS News and CNBC, Regan has reported from some of the most dangerous places on earth like Medellín, Colombia and the Tri-Border region of Paraguay for investigative pieces on extreme emerging markets, piracy and terrorism. Regan’s 2009 CNBC special, Marijuana Inc.: Inside America’s Pot Industry, nabbed the anchor a Best Documentary Emmy nomination and drew 38 million viewers, making it the highest-rated show in the channel’s history.

Currently, Regan and Adam Johnson cohost Bloomberg TV’s Street Smart, which each afternoon monitors and analyzes the stock market close and prepares investors for the next morning’s opening bell. Bloomberg Pursuits, Regan’s one-hour special on the out-of-office hobbies of global business titans including Richard Branson and Ronald Lauder, debuted October 15.

When we met with Regan at the Street Smart set, she’d recently returned from maternity leave after giving birth to her third child, Jamie, in July. (Regan and her husband, James Ben, also have two-year-old twin daughters, Alexandra and Elizabeth.) Motherhood does give her pause about those high-risk jobs in Medellín. “I don’t think I’ve ever been reckless, but I wouldn’t be truthful if I said my responsibility to my kids didn’t make me think twice,” she said.

Regan approaches all assignments diligently, whether they bring her to bleak crisis spots or, as Pursuits did, Branson’s 105-foot catamaran, the Necker Belle. “At the end of the day it’s about reporting a good story,” she said. “If it means being in some hellhole God knows where, great. And, yes, if you want to take me to Necker Island and put me on a yacht for thirty-six hours off the coast of the Dominican Republic to swim with whales and drink champagne, great! They’re equally challenging, and equally fun.”

Just as Regan continues to love opera while committing herself to journalism, the moguls she profiles on Pursuits maintain personal passions well outside of the boardroom while managing sprawling businesses. Branson opened his boat to Regan and introduced her to whales. Jim Glickenhaus gave her a tour of his 8,000-squarefoot- garage replete with custom-built Ferraris. And Lauder broke down an art market that the fervent collector has helped propel to staggering new heights.

Despite their idiosyncratic indulgences, Regan finds that these rulers of the ruling class share certain key traits: discipline and a refusal, if not an inability, to stay put. “All of these people are incredibly driven, and not just in their work lives, but in their personal lives as well,” she said. “[Branson] doesn’t go to Turks and Caicos to sit on a beach. He’s concerned with marine conservation and explored that when he was there.” There’s also a common appetite for risk: “[Branson’s wife] Joan Templeman was there and said there were a few times he’d have her sign things and she didn’t know what she was signing. Later she learned it was the deed to their home and that they could have lost it all on so many occasions.”

Even if the elite one-percent’s losses are largely hypothetical, they’re attuned to the oftendistressing recent economic news that Regan delivers. “Industry leaders have the luxury of being able to worry about the economy on a very macro level,” Regan said. “But they’re very much worried about the direction of the economy and country, and the $16 trillion debt load that at some point we’re all going to be responsible for.”

Those macroeconomic issues are the focal point of this presidential election, and Regan is anchoring Bloomberg TV’s coverage of the race. She concedes that whichever candidate wins will have his work cut out for him and demurs from naming her choice. “I think that would be going out on a limb that I probably shouldn’t go out on,” she said. Regan is proud of Bloomberg’s non-partisan take on politics and happy that financial news is largely devoid of the bias rampant in political coverage.

“This is the economy election, and suddenly you’re seeing the politicization of the economy,” Regan said. “We need to get the populism out of economics. That’s why it’s fun to be a business reporter—you can chart it out on paper and add it up because at the end of the days it’s less rhetoric and more numbers.”

While happy to avoid the “circus-like” bloviating that pervades so many contemporary newsrooms, Regan is no hard-nosed wonk. After the markets close, and when she’s not sipping champagne in the Virgin Islands, she’s a reader, writer, and globetrotting opera aficionado.

She also still makes time to sing. “To my children, every night,” she said. “But that’s the extent of my opera.”

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New York February / March 2014
New York February / March 2014