Home Insights What Makes Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, and Martha Stewart Tick? Pattie Sellers Behind the Scenes

What Makes Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, and Martha Stewart Tick? Pattie Sellers Behind the Scenes

by Icosuccess

Anthony Pompliano 0:00
I want to play a game with you. And I think as we play this game, we’ll unpack kind of a lot of the techniques that you use to do this and really become the best in the world at it. Let’s start with melinda gates.

So my understanding of the situation is, Linda gates had done press before, but never kind of exclusively by herself in a profile format, right? No one had ever written the Melinda Gates approved profile of her.

Right, you were able to successfully do that. How do you meet her? How do you convince her to do it? And then what was the process like actually writing that kind of first exclusive profile ever?

Pattie Sellers 0:39
I Gosh, I spent a couple of years talking to and writing letters to the Gates Foundation and her people. And she had done quite a lot of press with Bill as they were building the gates. Foundation, but she had never, she had never agreed to do an interview for a profile about her. So I wanted to do the first major profile. And I don’t know finally I got in it was the I remember I went to Seattle, the Monday after or the Tuesday, I guess it was after Labor Day in 2007.

And I remember the, the new head of PR for the Gates Foundation was a woman named Heidi Sinclair. She’s one of my closest friends today. I stayed friends with her and she was like her first week of the job. And Melinda was so nervous and I ended up interviewing Melinda like three times for that story once in New York, and I interviewed bill and Seattle separately for that.

And I interviewed, you know, a bunch of that and I moved Linda was great though, like she, she let me talk to her best friend. You know, I went over to her best friend’s house on the lake and you know, to her house and like had coffee and we’re sitting in the kitchen and I’m talking about Melinda.

And like, Linda had never told her story. Melinda had never talked about how, when she was young, right out of Duke and Duke University and working at Microsoft, you know, kind of low level, and she was walking across the parking lot some day.

And she saw the CEO, the founder, Bill Gates, and she said hello to them. And he asked her out and, and, and anyway, they felt like she she really dish and oh my god, it was fantastic. They lined up Fano for me, and I remember I talked to bondo and so it was great. I mean, they really went all out and then the story came out right at Christmas time.

And I got the nicest email over Christmas from Melinda telling me she was with her parents and her parents actually loved it loved the story. And that was a cover story. And that was, you know, like the ultimate like quintessential like brand new stamp of approval. And then my mother died three weeks later.

And my mother and loved loved loved that story. That was like the, the, her favorite story of all that I had done. And that was, I had been at fortune for 24 years at that point. So I know I know, a 84 Yeah, to die had been at fortune for 24 years at that point. So in a quarter of a century, that was the favorite story that she so it holds a lot of meaning to me for various reasons.

Anthony Pompliano 3:57
Yeah. And what was like the biggest surprise to them. process right when she agrees you go and you talk to everyone you talk to Bill, you kind of hear all the stories Was there one thing that kind of stood out to you that was either a surprise or you didn’t really understand until you had done all the work.

Pattie Sellers 4:14
So I forgot to I actually went I already knew Warren Buffett Well, at that point, but I had never been out to Omaha. So I went out to Omaha for that story. I mean, I could have interviewed Warren on the phone, but I, you know, I said, I think I said to him, I said, this would be a good chance for me to finally come out and you know, see you in your office. So I went out.

And they had announced the Giving Pledge together where Warren Warren, who did not expect to give any of his money away until he died and he thought his wife Susie would die. He thought he would he he never imagined that he was outlive his wife, Susie. So here he is. He lost his wife. He has all this money, doesn’t know what to do with it doesn’t have to be a philanthropist. He says it’s harder than making money.

So he announces This was before the cup few years before the story came out. He announces that he’s giving all his money to the Gates’s to distribute, because they’re experts. So anyway, that’s why and obviously, as most people know, Bill and Melinda and Warren are really close. So I went out to Omaha and here’s the answer to your question. Warren tells me how in to an extraordinary degree.

Melinda, kind of, first of all, convinced bill to give his money away during his lifetime and No, I can’t remember the details but convinced Warren also of the value of that, because there are all these diseases around the world and children are dying. People are dying every day. And, you know, let’s not save it. Let’s put it to good use. And Warren just, I mean, there’s that sort of aha moment. Wow, that’s what we should do with our money.

But Warren loves Melinda, because Melinda has done for Bill, what Susie did for Warren, which is basically take a nerdy guy who is like, all business and all numbers and finds the kind of humanity in him. And so it’s one of the reasons that Warren and builders Close. And it’s one of the reasons that Warren and Linda are so close because he sees a lot of Suzy and Melinda. I love that story. Yeah.

Anthony Pompliano 7:11
You and Martha Stewart while she’s in jail. Tell us that story that is absolutely epic.

Pattie Sellers 7:19
Oh, geez, I admit Martha in 1998 when I did a story called it was a cover story for Fortune called Women sex and power. And it was an idea that I had to do a story about I literally walked into the office of the top editor fortune at the time, john Huey and said, I think we should do a story about women who are doing better than men.

And he goes, What do you mean? I said, Well, women who are like, doing amazing things that no man has ever done or no bam. So anyway, long story short through that story. I met Martha. I actually had a sort of a An Evening with her and and two of her friends. Charlotte beers who was the head of Ogilvy and Mather, the big ad agency at the time and a woman named Darla Moore, who I ended up doing a cover story about the following year.

Darla Moore is Anthony. She would be of interest to a lot of your a lot of your listeners because she was the she she was the wife of the late Richard rainwater. Do you know who Richard rainwater do? Yeah, big, self made billionaire. But anyway, so I met I met Martha in 1998. One night at the apartment of Charlotte beers with Darla Moore in New York.

We started two years later, we fortune started fortune most powerful women, which was a which started as a list of the 50 most powerful women in business. We put Martha on the list for Several years, she was building her Empire. Then she lied about a stock trade. And she got convicted. I went to the trial. I was in touch with her during the trial.

I knew her I had written about her. Um, she got convicted. She got sent down to a prison in West Virginia for five months and then serve five months house arrest, and during the time that she was in prison, and by the way, I mean, I think that it was sort of a travesty. I mean, she lied to investigators, and she paid really, really big.

And I’m just going to fast forward to for a second, like, the way she handled that gives us all provides lessons for us all in dealing with adversity because she handled it in the most amazing and And quite frankly, classy way.

But anyway, when she was in prison I I wanted to do the first story about her after she got out of prison and I, I ended up sending her magazine every week through her assistant who sent a bag, I think every Friday down to West Virginia.

And so I would send over to Julia at Martha Stewart Living omnimedia a packet of the magazines at Time Inc. We used to get them, they’d all be displayed. We could all grab people, time, Sports Illustrated, and put together a package every week and send them down.

And Martha really appreciated it. You know, this was before I mean, this was like 2004 I mean, the internet people were reading on the internet but not as much people were reading Still like reading physical magazines.

So anyway, she got out of prison. They wouldn’t let me see her. There was a whole army of PR people around her. No, no, no, no, no, she’s not doing interviews. And she called me one day. And she said, Come on Monday morning, I think she called me like on a Saturday, and she called me She said, I’ll talk to you.

Let’s talk about this story you want to do come Monday morning, and I got a dial car, one of those like 777 cars. This was long before Uber. Got a car went up to Bedford, New York, where she lived. And I remember right as we were pulling up, I got a call from her PR person like her head head PR person. Oh my god, what are you doing? Martha just told me she called you and invited you. Oh my god.

So Martha did this like totally behind the back of her advisors. And it was great. She was wearing her out ankle ankle brank bracelet and we talked and she said let’s get down to the stable she said I only have like 20 minutes before I before I violate, like, leaving this house or whatever.

And we jumped in the car and we went down to her stables and she showed me around and I ended up I ended up getting the exclusive like you know, she, we did a cover story where the cover line was, it was a quote from her and the cover line was, I cannot be destroyed. That was the line a great picture of her and that line and really big print. Oh my gosh, she just hated the cover line.

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