For those of us who work in the financial media, the recent moves by Fox Business to poach top talent from CNBC is quite a drama to watch. Roger Ailes, head of television stations at News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWS, NWSA) and the man who built Fox News, has been hard at work challenging the entrenched financial news outlet that is CNBC — and the fireworks from this duel are pretty spectacular.
I’ll spare you a complete list of musical chairs, but one of the most recent additions to Fox Business is Melissa Francis, a veteran of both financial news and the trading floor. Melissa made her first broadcast Monday and is a great example of how Fox Business is trying to use its top talent to reach a broader audience beyond Wall Street insiders and sophisticated traders.
I had the pleasure of conducting an exclusive interview with Melissa this week about her new post at Fox, her market predictions and her retirement plans — which could involve owning her own gas station:
Q: Fox Business seems to be gathering momentum for an outlet that hasn’t even celebrated its fifth birthday. What’s life like over there compared with CNBC?
A: I spent nine fantastic years at CNBC, and now I’m thrilled to join the team at Fox Business. I’ve been a fan of the Fox brand for a long time. The scope of the Fox Business network is broader — it is not just focused the day trader, but rather anyone who cares about what happens to their money, their retirement or the financial welfare of their family. It’s about the intersection between Main Street and Wall Street, and I find that really compelling.
Q: Why did you make the switch, if that’s not presumptuous to ask?
A: Anyone in the business will tell you that Roger Ailes is a genius. They repeatedly use that word when you mention his name. I came to find out he’s also a genuine and charismatic person. When he called, I knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime. I didn’t hesitate.
Q: The last few years have been crazy for anyone trying to cover the markets. How has the financial crisis and recession changed the way you talk about Wall Street?
A: The conversation has gotten a lot more passionate and personal. Everyone has been touched in some way by the recession. We all know people who have lost their home or their job, even if we’ve been lucky enough to hold onto our own. People are worried about what the future will hold for their children, and you have to remember when you are talking about dollars and cents, you are talking about the welfare of someone’s family. The anger and the outrage that we’ve seen targeting Wall Street and Washington is a manifestation at least in part of that fear and insecurity. It makes reporting on the market and the economy even more of a responsibility.
Q: Give me the best piece of economic news you’ve reported on in the last month.
A: The best news was the drop in the unemployment rate. We are still a very long way from getting people back to work. I’m afraid many have given up hope and stopped looking for jobs and that’s behind the improvement, but I want to believe the number is a step in the right direction. Let’s hope it keeps ticking lower.
Q: Larry Kudlow loved to call you the “Empress of Energy” when you were covering commodities. Any predictions on the price of oil in 2012?
A: Melissa: Larry is a very close friend, but the New York Post actually gave me that name because I was the first person to report live from the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange. I traveled around the world covering OPEC and anything related to energy, and got the Saudi oil minister to go on camera for the first time in as long as anyone could remember, so the Post did a fun article that I still have somewhere. (Who am I kidding? It’s framed.)
As for predictions, I’m afraid the price of oil will go higher as economies around the world rebound and tension in the Middle East rise. I’m thinking about buying a gas station. Kidding!
Q: If you could hold one stock for a decade, what would it be?
A: News Corp. But then again, I cannot hold individual stocks, since I report on them. So I’m just going for brownie points with that answer. That’s also why I’m considering the gas station investment.
Q: In this business, we talk a lot about money. But give me three things that are truly important in your life.
A: That’s easy — my two sons and my husband. My boys are 1, 5 … and 40. They pay better dividends than any stock I know.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook. Jeff Reeves holds a position in Alcoa, but no other publicly traded stocks.