就比较和对比这两位杰出人物而言，还有谁能比两人杰出的传记作家沃尔特·艾萨克森和约翰·休伊做得更好呢？《乔布斯自传》（Steve Jobs）的作者艾萨克森是阿斯彭研究所（Aspen Institute）CEO，曾任CNN主席、《时代周刊》（Time）编辑，也是基辛格、富兰克林和爱因斯坦的传记作者。《富甲美国：零售大王沃尔顿自传》（Sam Walton: Made in America with Walton）一书的作者休伊则是时代公司（Time Inc.）的总编辑、《财富》杂志（Fortune）前编辑（我的老板）。
这次交谈的灵感源自笔者9月初在寡头控股公司全球峰会（Global Summit for the Closely Held）上对休伊和艾萨克森进行的一次采访。峰会主办者BDT公司（BDT & Co.）是一家面向家族企业的商业银行。3年前，离开高盛公司（Goldman Sachs）之后，拜伦·特罗特创办了这家公司。在高盛期间，他有一个著名的身份：为沃伦·巴菲特服务。一提起他们的传记的主角，休伊和艾萨克森似乎有说不完的话要讲（正如你将看到的那样，我其实没必要问许多问题！）。以下是这次访谈的摘要：
When you consider the greatest business minds of the past 100 years, certainly Steve Jobs and Sam Walton have to be at the very top of the list. Jobs created the most valuable company on earth (though down from an all-time high, Apple (AAPL) is still worth more than $500 billion), while Walton founded and built Wal-Mart (WMT), the biggest company in the world, with more than $450 billion in sales over the past 12 months. But Jobs and Walton did even more than that. Both created retailing, business, and even societal revolutions. They changed the way we buy, shop, and interact, and even how and where we work and live. The two men were vastly different. Jobs was a business version of a California counterculture icon. Walton was an old-school heartland conservative. And yet they were remarkably similar too: iconoclasts, of course, relentless, and often very tough on the people around them. And that's just for starters. If you really drill down into their lives and careers, all kinds of really cool insights emerge.
Who better to compare and contrast these two remarkable men than their remarkable biographers, Walter Isaacson and John Huey? Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs, is the CEO of the Aspen Institute, a former head of CNN and editor of Time, and also the author of biographies of Kissinger, Franklin, and Einstein. Huey, who wrote Sam Walton: Made in America with Walton, is the editor-in-chief of Time Inc., the former editor of Fortune, and my boss.
The inspiration for this conversation came from an interview of Huey and Isaacson that I conducted in early September at the Global Summit for the Closely Held, put on by BDT & Co., a merchant bank for family-controlled companies headed by Byron Trott, who founded the company three years ago after leaving Goldman Sachs, where he was famously Warren Buffett's banker. Huey and Isaacson had plenty to say about their subjects. (As you can see, I didn't really have to ask many questions!) What follows are the highlights.
Andy Serwer: These books are must-reads for students and practitioners of business -- there's no doubt about that. Sam Walton and Steve Jobs are two of the greatest business leaders in history. So I want to start by asking our biographers: How did you get to know the subjects of your books?
Walter Isaacson: I'd known Steve Jobs since 1984, January, when I was at Time magazine, a junior writer, and he came to show off the original Macintosh. I saw both sides of his personality. He had us use a jeweler's loupe to look at the cool icons. Then all of a sudden he turned dark and started berating us, saying we would never get the beauty of this sort of thing. I saw the intensity of his personality, and I came away liking him.
When I became editor of Time, and then at CNN, he was my good friend for two days a year when he had a new product out. So there was that relationship.