Mark S. Haines L'89, who played a major role in the growth and popularity of CNBC, died on May 24. He was 65.
Haines joined CNBC shortly after graduation from Penn Law School. It was the cusp of the 1990s, a decade which saw roaring growth and increasing interest in business news. Haines grabbed the opportunity and became a fixture on the network as founding anchor of "Squawk Box," a lively show that focused on Wall Street and business leaders with intelligence and rare irreverence.
On both "Squawk Box" and Squawk on the Street," for which he had been co-anchor since 2005, Haines earned a reputation as a tough questioner who covered business news with the zeal of a prosecutor, unafraid to go after "sacred cows."
As news of Haines' passing spread, figures across the broadcasting industry and the financial world mourned the loss.
CNBC President Mark Hoffman issued this statement: "With his searing wit, profound insight and piercing interview style, he was a constant and trusted presence in business news for more than 20 years. From the dot-com bubble to the tragic events of 9/11 to the depths of the financial crises, Mark was always the unflappable pro. He will be deeply missed."
NYSE traders paused for a moment of silence. "When the news of his passing swept across the floor in a manner usually reserved for some large geopolitical event that moves markets, everybody was riveted," Art Cashin, director of floor operations for UBS, said in an interview with MSNBC. This is no surprise, since his show didn't just report on the business world, but actually became a part of it. During the height of his show's popularity, the promotion of an interview with Haines before a commercial had the potential to send a stock up or down as traders bet on whether the interview would be positive or negative.
Prior to CNBC, Haines worked as an anchor for a number of news shows. He began his broadcasting career at WPRI-TV in Providence, R.I., where he covered corruption cases, an experience that would help create the tough interview style for which he later became famous. After this he moved on to WABC-TV in New York, and then KYW-TV in Philadelphia.
But Haines wasn't happy with his job there, and so he applied to law school. "I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to apply to law school," he said in a 2005 interview for the Penn Law Journal. And so he left KYW for Rutgers School of Law-Camden where he completed his first year, and transferred to Penn Law for the remaining two years.
"There were challenging and intelligent people there and I loved learning," he said of Penn Law. "This was a chance to indulge my intellectual abilities." Haines spent his second summer at Pepper Hamilton LLP, and planned to work there after graduation, but was offered a job at the then-new CNBC by a friend from WABC in New York.
Throughout his career in broadcast journalism, he used his law degree every day and found his three years in law school of great benefit. "The primary thing you get out of law school," he said, "is to learn how to organize and think in a disciplined way and that is a great help in covering business news. Another great help is, as a lawyer, you are trained to be skeptical.
When I started at CNBC, I was asking questions that no one had asked before simply because I didn't accept the Wall Street sacred cows."
Doug Frenkel W'68, L'72, Penn Law's Morris Shuster Practice Professor of Law, taught Haines. He remembers a number of things about him that would prove beneficial to his career.
Frenkel noted Haines' "deep, booming voice" and sense of humor, but said that one particular thing stood out. "He was also a very real or genuine guy; despite their age differences, Mark was a central player in a class that consisted mostly of students who could have been his kids. Looking back, that same quality probably served him well in his great success as a financial news anchor."
Haines' stoic delivery of the news on September 11 is remembered by many, as is his coverage of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. But perhaps his biggest – and most impressive – legacy as a broadcaster was his prediction that the stock market would bottom out on March 10, 2009. He was off by one day.
Haines is survived by his wife, Cynthia; son, Matthew; and daughter, Meredith.