B. C. Forbes, a financial columnist for the Hearst papers, and his partner Walter Drey, the general manager of the Magazine of Wall Street, founded Forbes magazine on September 15, 1917. Forbes provided the money and the name and Drey provided the publishing expertise. The original name of the magazine was Forbes: Devoted to Doers and Doings. Drey became vice-president of the B.C. Forbes Publishing Company, while B.C. Forbes became editor-in-chief, a post he held until his death in 1954. B.C. Forbes was assisted in his later years by his two eldest sons, Bruce Charles Forbes (1916–1964) and Malcolm Stevenson Forbes (1917–1990).
Bruce Forbes took over on his father's death, and his strengths lay in streamlining operations and developing marketing. During his tenure, 1954–1964, the magazine's circulation nearly doubled.
On Malcolm's death, his eldest son Malcolm Stevenson "Steve" Forbes Jr. (born 1947) became President and Chief executive of Forbes and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes magazine. Between 1961 and 1999 the magazine was edited by James Michaels. In 1993, under Michaels, Forbes was a finalist for the National Magazine Award. In 2006, an investment group Elevation Partners that includes rock star Bono bought a minority interest in the company with a reorganization, through a new company, Forbes Media LLC, in which Forbes Magazine and Forbes.com, along with other media properties, is now a part. A 2009 New York Times report said: "40 percent of the enterprise was sold ... for a reported $300 million, setting the value of the enterprise at $750 million". Three years later, Mark M. Edmiston of AdMedia Partners observed, "It's probably not worth half of that now". It was later revealed that the price had been US$264 million.
Sale of headquarters and relocation to Jersey City
In January 2010, Forbes reached an agreement to sell its headquarters building located on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to New York University; terms of the deal were not publicly reported, but Forbes would continue to occupy the space under a sale-leaseback arrangement. The company's headquarters subsequently moved to the Newport section of downtown Jersey City, New Jersey in 2014.
Sale to Integrated Whale Media (51% stake)
In November 2013, Forbes Media, which publishes Forbes magazine, was put up for sale. This was encouraged by minority shareholders Elevation Partners. Sale documents prepared by Deutsche Bank revealed that the publisher's 2012 EBITDA was US$15 million. Forbes reportedly sought a price of US$400 million. In July 2014, the Forbes family bought out Elevation and then sold a 51 per cent majority of the company to Integrated Whale Media Investments.