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Wall Street Watchdog

With a take-no-prisoners attitude and an eye to protecting the common investor’s interest, Charles Gasparino of FOX Business Network is the financial reporter who makes people listen
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
Ernie Els, November/December 2012

It’s a little after 1:15 on a summer afternoon in Midtown Manhattan, and Charles Gasparino is on the move. He’s racing down a studio hallway at FOX Business Network, where since February 2010 he has been a senior correspondent covering Wall Street. He’s there to talk about yet another exclusive story, one of many in his notable, and often combative and controversial, career.

“Am I late?” he asks.

“Yes” is the reply, but it doesn’t matter. Gasparino is always on the move, and Gasparino is a star, hired away from dominant CNBC to help the young Fox network in the cable ratings race. He has been quoted as saying that his job at Fox is to “rip the lungs out of the competition”—to “come up with a scoop” every day and “promote that scoop.” And here he is, doing just that.

An aide fits him with a microphone, and he walks through the brightly lighted studio—its floor largely a very appropriate Republican red—and joins the coanchors for his three or so on-air minutes of trademark Gasparino.

MarketWatch, the financial information website, has called him “Fox’s Rocky Balboa.” He once said that his CNBC colleagues considered him “a pain in the ass”—but that it was a good thing. He is respected, sometimes feared, maybe occasionally even hated. As the cliché goes, he takes no prisoners.

When he’s reporting a story, when he’s doing a TV interview, he’s tough and persistent. “You come on the air, and I’m there, I’m going to break your chops,” he says. “I’m going to be an asshole. A lot of times, TV invites these people on and they’re considered guests. I don’t look at you as a guest.”

Despite, or because of, this no-nonsense attitude, the emphasis is on respected. When Gasparino was with CNBC, Lucas van Praag, then the chief spokesman for Goldman Sachs, the powerful investment banking and securities firm, was quoted as saying, “Most trading floors have CNBC on with the sound turned down, but when Charlie comes on, they listen.” Charlie has a knack for making people listen.

One thing that has helped him in his coverage of the imperfections of the Financial District is his love of cigars—which he has used to gather sources and scoops.

“Wall Street guys love cigars,” he says. “As I became more and more a Wall Street reporter, I started going to cigar bars, and smoking cigars became a huge thing. Back then you used to be able to smoke at restaurants. I used to smoke at Elaine’s and Campagnola,” restaurants (Elaine’s is no longer there) on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “At Campagnola you could smoke up front. I smoked a lot of cigars at both places up front. It was a way of getting stories and hanging out with sources.”

The Grand Havana Room, a lavish members-only club in Midtown Manhattan, “where a lot of Wall Street guys belong” and visit to enjoy the pleasures of cigar smoking in a collegial atmosphere, is “one of the best places to meet sources” nowadays, according to Gasparino.

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