Last year, the Russian investor and oligarch Magomed Musaev was caught on tape bragging about what he described as a stealthily executed media acquisition: “I just bought global Forbes,” he told associates on recordings obtained by The Washington Post. Technically, of course, he hadn’t, and things were a little more complicated. And they were about to get even more complicated, too.
Days earlier, Austin Russell, the 28-year-old American entrepreneur and C.E.O. of Luminar Technologies, an autonomous vehicle software firm, had announced that he and a group of investors were buying an 82 percent stake in Forbes Global Media for a whopping $800 million—more than three times what Jeff Bezos paid for the Post, and more than four times what Marc Benioff paid for Time. Musaev and Russell were close: Musaev had helped provide seed funding for Luminar, and he had personally brought Russell into the consortium that planned to buy the storied business magazine. On the tapes, Musaev claimed Russell was merely “the face” of the transaction and salivated over the influence that his own control of Forbes would confer: “When you have in your hands the key to the most authoritative global brand,” he said, “this key will give me access to anyone.”