Fast Company

Al Gore's $100 Million Makeover

algore%20cover.jpgWhen you pick up the next issue of Fast Company magazine, Al Gore will be serenely looking back at you. We were fortunate to have Good Morning America do a quick mention of the story -- check it out here. (The video screen for the segment is to the right.) The story will be available in its entirety early next week on FastCompany.com.

As all the cash register sound-effects clearly indicate, Mr. Gore has generated a significant amount of personal wealth since he left office; this in itself is not entirely unusual for someone who enters the private sector after a lifetime of public service. Money has long been a tonic for former politicians who leave, or are invited to leave, their jobs -- think symbolic board posts, memoirs, corporate keynote speeches, a lifetime of hefty honoraria. And, after his dramatic 2000 nonelection, Gore might have limped along to just that sort of life. Significant wealth alone does not a Fast Company cover subject make, however.

In what may be one of the greatest brand makeovers in history, Gore has become an international darling, hailed as a visionary on everything from climate change to Iraq. He's an Academy Award winner, a best-selling author, a front-runner for the Nobel Prize, and a concert promoter who turned out to be a bigger rock star at this year's Grammys than the rock stars themselves.

But what no one is talking about is that Gore has also become a stunningly successful businessman and entrepreneur, using the Petri dish of business to explore his deeply felt ideas about how the world works, doesn't work, and could work better. (In addition to being associated with two of the most successful technology companies in history, Google and Apple, he has also co-founded a cable network and an asset management company, both boasting radically new, and profitable, business models. They are becoming quiet forces in their respective fields.) And this, in many ways, has fueled his extraordinary comeback.

If I believed in the concept of a “natural”, I'd say Al Gore is about the most natural entrepreneur I'd ever met. Instead, we make the case -- with his help -- that a lifetime in government actually prepared him to take full advantage of the possibilities that exist, at least in theory, in the private sector. But he brings a tremendous ability to the table -- some of the very same stuff that tripped him up as a candidate. (If you've seen An Inconvenient Truth, you know he can handle, and prefers, complex data. Tough to get a soundbite out of him. Especially if he doesn't want to give one.) He's also a person of immeasureable charm and persuasiveness; he can work a room and a Rolodex like few others. He's deeply introspective. He's got the guts to invest his own money; he's hands on, yet trusts his partners and team members. (He credits them with much of his success. In every meaningful way, this is their story, too.)

For nearly two months, I've watched crowds filled with people of every size, shape, color and perspective clamor to get a chance to greet the Veep. Just to touch him. He was the star attraction at the Tribeca Film Festival's opening gala; he conversed effortlessly with programmers at an Adobe conference -- he'd circled the globe presenting his slideshow and attending meetings at least twice in the time it took me to write the piece. The "robo-candidate" of Y2K is gone -- he appears relaxed, happy in his own skin, passionately engaged in issues he gets to choose, with an agenda he gets to set. As a result, he's reenergized both his fans and his detractors -- nobody is neutral on the subject of Gore -- to powerfully emotional debates on everything from the issues of the day to his weight. And, he is the subject of endless political speculation. Will he? Won't he? (We give our own best guess in the story.)

It comes a surprise to everyone except the people who know him and work with him, that Gore has turned out to be such an extraordinarily nimble entrepreneur. And yes, he's made a tremendous amount of money. But this profile -- a business tale hiding in plain sight -- is how he did it.

Stay tuned.

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15 Comments

  • Slick Willie

    "What politics has become," Gore explains at one point during our discussion, "is something that requires a kind of tolerance for artifice and manipulative communications strategies that I just find I have in very short supply. I just don't have the patience for things that seem to be greatly rewarded in today's political system."

    "Artfice and manipulative communications strategies". Looks like Gore unwittingly summed up the Clinton administration with that quote!
    This certainly is some puff piece. I wonder how many times the writer had to excuse herself during the interview to put on a pair of fresh panties? And Isn't this the Al Gore fake, phoney, fraud Iced-tea drinker we're talking about here. It sounds to me like he hasn't changed a bit. All that talk about global warming, why wasn't he talking about it when he was VP, oh right he was busy hitting up Budhist nuns for money. As for that Google gig, that is nothing more than a payback for a job well done while he was VP. And does anyone with half a brain still believe in carbon offsets? That fraud was uncovered some time ago. Al Gore is a stooge and will never be president, hell he couldn't even win his own state in 2000!

  • Sid Bursten

    I was a Senior Consultant at IBM when the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to elevate George W. Bush to the Presidency over the popular-vote winner Al Gore. Virtually any other politician would have attacked the credibility of the anointed winner but -- unlike the present occupant of the Oval Office -- Al Gore has always shown his respect for the Constitution and the rule of law.

    I used to think that Jimmy Carter was the most successful former President of the United States, but I have no doubt that Al Gore will go down on history as the most successful former Vice President -- including those who ascended to the Presidency itself.

    Following the Supreme Court decision, I wrote Al Gore pledging my support for his next run for the Presidency, which I was disappointed to see was not in 2004. I certainly hope he runs in 2008.

  • New Jersey Steve

    Once everyone is done with their intitial pre-loaded reaction, I'm sure they'll all read the piece and take part in a very interesting and timely discussion, one that I have not seen anywhere, about Al Gore, what he has been doing since that very special election in 2000, and as an entrepeneur. I'm looking forward to that -- I like working off of the fuller record. Nice work Ellen B. McGirt.

  • Wolf

    Marci,

    For a few years now, I have tried (unsuccessfully) to find "reputable scientists and experts" that support the view against Global Warming, and - provided they accept the theory that Global Warming exists - at least support the view that Global Warming is a natural phenomenon, and not (at least to a statistically significant degree) Man-Made. You seem to have found them. Could you please point me in the right direction?

    It would also help me understand reason-based facts and data on how "solutions proposed by Gore and friends [cause] ... the future destruction of our economy". It would help me go short on GE the largest company that might have gone the wrong - green - way to place their bets on behalf of their shareholders.

    It would be great, if you could help the "lemmings without brains" take an intelligent, scientific, un-emotional view of the world that may prevent them from jumping off the cliff. With your comment on "how the man lives", I suspect that you have been able to look behind his claim that he offsets all his carbon usage? I would love to hear more about that, because again it is almost impossible to find facts there. Maybe, it is all this liberal media (including Fox News in this case, amazingly enough!) that keeps the truth you seem to have found hidden from us. Where has truly investigative reporting gone...? Which of "his actions [that] speak louder than his words" have you been able to decode? I would love to see a truly scientific skeptic unravel this guy.

    Thank you in advance for any clarifications you can provide!

    Good luck!

    Wolf

  • Mike Smock

    Jim Murphy,

    I gave up on FC when they did the cover story on Josh Rushing. I revisit the blog from time to time, hoping they might return to their capitalist roots. I thought the move into their expensive Manhattan offices might get the capitalist juices flowing again. Boy was I wrong.

  • Jim Murphy

    I'm the least Republican human being on the planet, and think Bush is easily the worst president of my lifetime. I'm a vegetarian, environmentally conscious individual who's probably done more for the good for this planet and the creatures of all species that live on it than 99% of the population. Still, I'm not blind to the fact that Al Gore is a self serving blowhard....I read Fast Company for business news and concepts, not political didacticism and shameless self promotion in the guise of "environmental concern". The only thing Gore is "concerned" about is keeping his name in the newspaper and the lips of the media and entertainment industries firmly affixed to his backside. I expect better from Fast Company, who I look to to see *beyond* the BS of status quo thinking. He's the antithesis of what your magazine represents, a man who's made a career sucking at the teat of taxpayer entitlement. He's not earned an honest buck in his life, unless he got paid for working on the farm during his summer vacations from prep school and Harvard. He's just another political hack, like virtually the entire roster of Democratic *and* Republican presidential candidates. Unless he's writing about exploiting a developing marketplace trend for personal gain, whatever he has to say will be a waste of paper which I *thought* was the problem in the first place.I'll definitely not bother buying the next issue of your magazine, and I'll be back when you quit trying to be "Mother Jones".

  • Shannon

    He's "the man" and it cracks me up how these haters can't stand that, once again, Gore proves himself to be a cut above ANYONE the GOP can offer. Was life so bad for you during the Clinton/Gore days? How many people were dying senselessly then? How much was the price of gas per gallon? When abroad, did people frown at you when they learned you were American? W and Co. are embarrassing and shameful. Our heyday can return with a President Gore in office -- run, Al, run! (And yes, that picture of him doesn't look normal.)

  • Marci

    It so offensive and scary that if you speak out against or at least question some of the conclusions that are being brought forth by Mr. Gore, that reputable scientists and experts are labeled "dead-enders". It's scary that people are willing to take it all in without question and describe the boom of the Clinton/Gore years, and not see the solutions proposed by Gore and friends as the future destruction of our economy. That doesn't mean we shouldn't carefully consider our world and it's resources, but it's like lemmings without brains almost. Look at how the man lives and tell me to believe in what he says, it's hard to do when his actions speak louder than his words.
    And that picture is so photoshopped!

  • Gary Marsh

    Vice President Al Gore, you are the man for the Presidency! Let's hope that'll happen. We should all be looking forward to what VP Al Gore has in store for the world next.

    If there is one thing we all need most of all, it is a leader who is willing to stick his reputation on the line in order to get the truth out. Not only do we need a leader to clean up the earth, we need a leader to cleanse our system of government!

    For over 19 years, I have had to keep my opinions to myself. Since watching "An Inconvenient Truth" and reading "The Assault On Reason", I feel its my duty to speak on the things most dear to our nation and the world at large.

    Al Gore has struck the cord in me that causes that voice to speak up an be heard. Thank You Al Gore!

    Gary Marsh USN (retired)

  • Mike Smock

    Marcus, I agree. Ellen sounds like a Gore cheerleader rather than a skeptical journalist.

    By the way is that Al Gore on the cover?

  • YJ

    Hmm.. let's see that Dubya is going to do after his astounding years in office where he managed to divide the entire world, kill thousands of american soldiers and turn Iraq into a civil war killing zone..

  • Marcus

    It is nice to know that Mr. Gore has done so well. Also, this short article will certainly help it's author gather future work with the likes of Tiger Beat or other teen/pre-teen mags, as it is a very good example of the style they prefer.

  • Dean Shutt

    Why is Al Gore considered a polarizing figure? He served in the armed forces in time of war, he served with distinction in the House and the Senate, and he was Vice President during an administration that oversaw an economic boom. After he won the popular vote in the 2000 election, but lost the electoral vote what did he do? He did what all good capitalists would want, he started a TV network, he made a movie, he wrote several books. What about that is controversial exactly? The subject matter? Aside from a few dead-enders nobody is really disputing the underlying premise of An Inconvenient Truth. So I ask again, what exactly is so polarizing about Al Gore?

  • Mike Smock

    Hi Ellen, Is there any attempt at journalistic balance in your piece? For every person who might hold Al Gore out as an international darling there at least as many who view him in a much less favorable light. If anything, perhaps the story here is what a polarizing figure Al has become, like Hillary and George W.

  • Corey Julihn - Innovation - CE

    I think the primary reason Al Gore is successful is because he hit up on an emerging trend before it went mainstream! The trend of being green was just below the surface when he released his movie, An Inconvenient Truth. It was perfect timing. Emerging trends are the key to innovation.