In the fall of 1987, I was visiting Paris and took a meeting with a young American freelance writer then living in Bordeaux, because I was looking to add a full-time person to Wine Spectator’s London office.
I didn’t know him. But after we talked for about an hour, I thought he would be a good fit with our team. I made him an offer, and in January of 1988, Thomas Matthews became an associate editor of Wine Spectator.
Fast-forward to 1999. I had moved most of the Wine Spectator staff to our headquarters in New York. In the heat of the dot-com boom, my managing editor at the time decided to work for an Internet company. I needed to find a replacement to run the publication.
I was faced with a pivotal decision. I had some strong candidates, but decided to broaden my search. Tom was not initially on my radar for the job, but he wrote me a letter asking me to consider him.
I took a few months to make my selection. Looking back, appointing Tom was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Over the past 33 years I have watched Tom grow and develop. As the executive editor of my largest and most complex publication, he has had to deal with me almost daily. Some would say that’s not a lucky thing for him!
From my perspective, I was very lucky. Tom is quiet and thoughtful. His calm demeanor settled my otherwise “Type-A” personality. He always had the big picture in mind. As a team, we were complete in every way. Over time, I learned to trust him even when I didn’t agree with him. He also had the responsibility to work with our 40-member editorial team and freelancers around the world. I don’t know how he did it. He built lasting relationships with each one of them.
Two years ago, we had dinner together in West Palm Beach. I was caught completely off-guard when he brought up the topic of his retirement. I heard the emotion in his voice. In his mind, it was time to pass the baton.
We were so close he knew this would upset me. I have trouble letting go of people. And Tom has a special place in my heart. Before he could finish his sentence, I said, “no problem.” He knew I was lying. But Tom deserves to enjoy the next phase of his life as he wishes. I didn’t want him to feel any guilt. Together we worked out a plan and a timetable.
So here we are: Tom’s last issue as executive editor. I have announced his replacement: Jeffery Lindenmuth, who did a brilliant job as executive editor at sister publication Whisky Advocate. Jeff takes over January 1.
Tom has done all he can to prepare Jeff for his new assignment, and is now free to travel and sleep late. But he is not completely off the hook. He has agreed to continue to lead our major charitable wine event—the New York Wine Experience—and other special projects, as well as be my advisor on matters of the future. He will still be around.
I declare to all that I will miss Tom. Lucky for me, I have nothing but great memories.