Getting To Know Forbes’ Lulu Pelosi

Known professionally as Luisa Kroll, Forbes’ Wealth Editor Lulu Pelosi is as comfortable chatting with soccer moms as she is talking to the wealthiest people on the planet.

It’s Wednesday evening at the Brewster Sports Center, and Luisa Pelosi—Lulu to her friends—is on soccer carpool duty. As the mother of two daughters (Gabby, 11, and Cassie, 7), Pelosi is clearly at ease watching the soccer scrimmage from the sidelines while chatting with the other parents. As Forbes magazine’s assistant managing editor of wealth, however, she is equally at ease speaking with the world’s wealthiest people—not just multi-millionaires, but the richest of the rich. 

In her capacity as wealth editor, Pelosi (who uses her maiden name, Luisa Kroll, professionally) co-edits and has final sign-off on the magazine’s flagship lists, “The Forbes 400” and “The World’s Billionaires.” It is in this role that she appears on the set of CBS This Morning. Gone is the casual, sporty, soccer mom from Croton Falls. In her place, an immaculately dressed, striking brunette who is both charming and slightly intimidating in her unwavering knowledge of the industry. “First of all, you need to have $1.3 billion,” she says. “So there were 61 billionaires that were not even rich enough to make ‘The Forbes 400’ this year.” She continues ticking off the facts: “Probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many that the majority of these billionaires are from New York and California, but an interesting factoid is that one in every 10 is an immigrant,” she tells the show’s co-hosts.

Pelosi’s ability to remain immune to the power and prestige of the über-wealthy is a huge asset. “I’m not impressed or intimidated by people with wealth,” she says. “That helps with this job because I’ve definitely been pressured over the years to raise their numbers, or lower their numbers, to write or not write certain things about them.” For example, there was the foreign billionaire who flew his CFO to New York to meet her in person because he wanted a higher net worth to appear in Forbes. “He told [the CFO] he couldn’t leave until he convinced me to give him a higher net worth. I made no promises but did convince the man to go home.” 

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Pelosi continues, “I’ve been doing this for a very long time and, to me, billionaires are just people. It’s interesting because they are usually a little more driven or perhaps a little more offbeat, but they are still just people. They are still motivated by the same things we all are, things like pride and privacy.”

Take, for instance, Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson, Iceland’s first billionaire, whom Pelosi considers to be one of the most intriguing individuals she has ever interviewed. “At the time when I was writing the story, he was very young and dashing and motivated by the need to restore his family’s name,” Pelosi recalls. “What was fascinating to me was how much his story was tied to that of his nation’s story. His great-grandfather was one of the first entrepreneurs in Iceland and his father ran one of the big shipping companies in Iceland, but his father had been arrested when he was young and he witnessed this. It really affected him, so he went to NYU and then Russia and made a small fortune. Then he came back to Iceland like a Viking raider and bought up all of these companies. This was when the economy was frothy and then, of course, it all blew apart. He has since lost much of his fortune.” 

With 18 years of experience in the field (she began her career with Forbes in 1996), Pelosi credits her years of experience and her unique upbringing for her ability to remain undaunted in the presence of extreme wealth. 

Raised on Manhattan’s Upper East Side by an investment-banker father and a stay-at-home mom, and educated at the prestigious Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut, Pelosi admits that her background prepared her for a life of wealth reporting. “Some of my parents’ friends have since made ‘The Forbes 400’ list, and, growing up, my family belonged to Century Country Club in Purchase where they all hung out—Henry Kravis and Jerry Speyer belong there,” she says. “But I’ve never really been able to use those connections; I don’t really want to use them. I do think it has helped me not to be overly impressed and to keep a healthy skepticism.” 

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Pelosi notes that, while growing up and earning her undergraduate degree at Dartmouth, she never dreamed of a career in business journalism. “My father was a successful investment banker, but he never wanted me to go into banking or business because he thought it wasn’t creative enough,” she remembers. “So, when I first got out of college, I got a job at the big advertising firm D’arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, but I kept thinking that there has to be more to life than selling Crystal Light and Cool Whip!” That’s when Pelosi decided she wanted to pursue a career in journalism, enrolling in Columbia University’s J-school.

 “Business journalism seemed like a good fit because, with my dad’s background in investment banking, he inspired me and I actually had a little business experience; I got to use this business background but in a more creative way,” she explains.

Pelosi admits that walking this tightrope between hands-on mom and prominent wealth reporter is challenging. Still, she manages to remain active at the Pequenakonck Elementary School in North Salem, which her daughters both attend, volunteering as class parent and helping out on multiple Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) committees. Adding to her somewhat hectic lifestyle, her husband Andy is also extremely active in the community, running The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, the nonprofit advocacy organization he launched in 2007 aimed at keeping guns off of college campuses throughout the United States. “Over the past 17 years, he’s organized and participated in a lot of events, like the Silent March, [where they lay out empty shoes to represent victims of gun violence],” she says. “But most of his time is spent focused on legislation. After Newtown, Andy was invited to participate in the meeting with Vice President Joe Biden to talk about some of the solutions.” When he’s not running his nonprofit, he is busy heading up the North Salem Democratic Committee and the Town Recreation Committee, and coaching youth soccer. 

When asked how she manages it all, Pelosi doesn’t miss a beat. “Forbes is a terrific place to work; I am able to work from home two days a week,” Pelosi explains. “But I have also become more selective about the trips I take for work. Very often, I send my reporters instead of taking the trip myself, but these are the choices you make.” Back at the house, it doesn’t matter how many billionaires Pelosi has met with during the week. “When I’m home,” she says, “I help with homework.”

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