The Fun and Serious Sides of CNBC anchor Tyler Mathisen

Mathisen has served as host for the Imagine Solutions conference since 2011.

BY February 10, 2017

Tyler Mathisen looks the part of an old-school anchorman. Switch on Power Lunch, the CNBC show Mathisen co-hosts each weekday, and you’ll see a familiar image: a man in his early 60s, erudite in tone and appearance. His gray hair is coiffed. His suit is dark. His tie is bright. His shirt is buttoned to the top, save for those few days in the summer when he ventures on camera with an open collar. His brow furrows and his head pitches to the side as he waits for guests to answer questions on topics like falling stocks and corporate tax rates. This entirely subjective assessment of his image is not a dig. Mathisen exudes the gravity of such iconic broadcasters as Charles Gibson and Tom Brokaw, two of his journalism heroes. His demeanor is befitting for a financial news show with a premium on brevity.

It is something of a relief, though, to find proof of three-dimensionality behind his steely expressions. Remember when Brokaw would appear on Letterman? It’s kind of like that. It’s reassuring to know that beneath the veneer the anchorman is real. For instance, you may not expect that he and his wife collect birdhouses for their suburban New Jersey yard. He likes seeing the wrens return each year. In a community softball league, he earned a reputation for being a “rocket-armed” infielder. Paul Freeman, his friend since the seventh grade, admits they share a sophomoric sense of humor. (“I just really hesitate to share with you the details of just how juvenile we’ve been over the years.”) There is visual proof of Mathisen’s goofiness on YouTube. Once, during a show, he busted into Gangnam Style as stock tickers rushed below him on screen.

“I think people who only saw me on television would be surprised that I’m less buttoned-up than I seem on television. I’m not formal,” Mathisen says. “Anybody who knows me knows I’m not stuffy at all.”  Freeman affirms this. His friendship with Mathisen was sealed in a junior high cafeteria when Mathisen made him laugh so hard chocolate milk gushed from his nose. The men have remained close even after Freeman moved to California, where he works as a strategist.

“Tyler is a real person,” Freeman says. “By that I mean, many people who are at a certain level of achievement, if you’re at a party with them, they’re always looking around for greener pastures, and he’s not like that. I would say that in so far as he enjoys some celebrity, he doesn’t act like one. That’s nice. Some people use self-deprecating humor to dress up the fact that they’re just an asshole, but Tyler is actually a normal person.”

His open manner appealed to Randy Antik when the Naples resident headed to New York to see if Mathisen would fit as host for Imagine Solutions, an annual one-day conference of panels and Ted Talk-esque speeches in Naples. Antik, CEO of Imagine Solutions, wanted a professional, one who would motivate the audience to think. “He’s right in the middle of a big world, a New York-centric world, and he doesn’t come across that way at all. It’s a long hours, always taking a final exam kind of world, yet he’s pretty easygoing,” says Antik. “He’s not one of these pontificating types.”


Mathisen has hosted Imagine Solutions since 2011 and earns high marks from the crowd that contains high-powered, high-achieving retirees. Mathisen is slated to emcee the Feb. 27 conference, Crazy Big Thinking, at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples. Eight sessions and nearly 30 speakers are planned. Like other speakers, Mathisen is not paid for his time, but the conference covers expenses, including a stay at The Ritz-Carlton. Mathisen, his wife and their 10-year-old son look forward to the annual Naples escape that bundles beach time and learning. “The conference is something to be experienced, not to be described. You kind of had to be there to really get it,” Mathisen says. For him, the stories of people surmounting tremendous obstacles—the man who scaled mountains on prosthetic legs or the soprano who returned to singing after a double lung transplant—are the most inspiring. “You wonder, ‘Where do they find the internal strength to do that?’ It makes you reflect on your own drive and laziness. If he’s doing that, what the hell am I doing with my life?”

Mathisen with his wife, Joanne, and sons Ian (top) and Mack.

In his downtime in Naples, Mathisen and his family soak in beach sunsets and stroll on Fifth Avenue South. On occasion, Mathisen smokes a cigar at BURN by Rocky Patel. Naples is now on their list of possible places to retire. When their trip to Naples is over, Mathisen returns to New York with the same questions he hopes to stir within the crowd: “How did this all fit together? And what did it motivate me to do in my community? How do we translate this sort of thought symposium into local action?”

 Mathisen enjoys the detour from his anchor seat. “You have a much greater opportunity to connect with people. It doesn’t matter if you hit the top of an hour perfectly. You can riff a little bit. You can do some jazz, sometimes you use a little gratuitous profanity to let them know you’re human,” he says. During an event unrelated to Imagine Solutions, Mathisen tossed the script and sang songs from Hamilton instead, recalls his friend and former colleague, Eric Schurenberg, who hosted alongside Mathisen. “When you’re on stage with Tyler, you never know what’s going to happen.”

Schurenberg is president and editor-in-chief of Inc., a publication dedicated to entrepreneurs, but they met decades ago when Mathisen was Schurenberg’s editor at Money magazine. Mathisen worked there 15 years as a writer and eventually a top editor. Schurenberg commended Mathisen’s skillful ability to steer an editing session: “You’d come out feeling like all the changes he wanted were changes you thought of.”


Mathisen landed in financial journalism “by accident,” he insists, but he clearly has a knack for breaking down complex topics. After graduating from the University of Virginia, he secured a job with Time Life books. His topics ranged from home repair to the history of aviation, but he soon realized the more interesting and lucrative work of Time was in its magazines. He moved to Money in 1982, though his relationship with journalism began much earlier. “I suppose journalism was in my blood,” he says. 

During World War II, his father was a war correspondent while in the Navy. And, as a newspaper reporter, his father covered everything from burlesque to the White House. His mother was an artist. As an only child, Mathisen engaged in dinner conversations that centered upon the political and social upheaval of the ’60s. “You think these little piddly anti-Trump demonstrations are something to get exercised about? No way. Those were real demonstrations with real passion and cause behind them. … Having grown up in that time in a house that prized discussion and the articulating of views, I suppose it’s little surprise that I chose to go into writing.”

He eased into broadcasting, working as money editor of Good Morning America from 1991 until 1997, the year he joined CNBC. Currently, he also co-hosts Nightly Business Report, a show produced by CNBC for public television that, in 2014, was named the best radio/TV show by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Mathisen is not a “gotcha” broadcaster but neither is he a “yes sir” (or yes ma’am) interviewer, says  Freeman, who lauds Mathisen’s capacity to press for clarity when his guests try to avoid it. “In an extremely competitive business, he’s a survivor. It’s not just that he has the largest forehead in television,” Freeman ribs as only a really good friend could, “he asks good questions like a normal person would, and that’s an enormously watchable thing and a rare thing on TV.”

At CNBC, Mathisen met his wife of 12 years, Joanne LaMarca Mathisen, who worked as a producer for one of his shows before becoming a senior producer at The Today Show. “Tyler was among the very few on-air talent who remained grounded. He was also one of the smartest people I’d come to know and that actually impressed me and intimidated me,” she recalls. “Tyler cares deeply for people as do I, and I think you don’t find that too often in our field.” The pair fell in love while dancing, a passion they are now more likely to share in their kitchen. “We dance unembarrassed and in front of our son,” Mathisen says.

The longer he talks, the more Mathisen reveals of the man behind the anchorman image. “People probably think I’m a lot more liberal left than I am,” Mathisen says, noting the perception of a liberal media, save for Fox. “I am not ideological. They’d probably be surprised to learn who I voted for [in the presidential election].” He wrote in former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He shares some financial advice. “I am a big believer in not trying to time markets. I think the single best move a person can make is to make a broad, U.S. stock index fund the core of your portfolio.”

What about under President Donald Trump? “Prepare for higher interest rates and possibly faster economic growth and a smidge more inflation. Invest accordingly, but keep your knees bent. There will be surprises.”

Eventually we’re chatting about his pre-broadcast grooming routine, and he indulges in the stereotype of an anchorman. “It is all about the hair.” His styled swoop is imperfect off the air. On weekends, Mathisen often sports jeans and a ball cap. He spends his downtime playing golf, hiking and biking with his family, tossing a football with his young son or tending to the yard.

Despite the restraints of the format for an anchorman, Mathisen tries to reveal some of who he is, that he is more than a smart guy in a nice suit and a honed tell-me-more face. “I do think fundamentally the viewer wants to know you. They either want to affiliate with you or connect with you or they want to hate you, and I’ve got both, believe me. I try not to let it get to me, but it’s hard because I’m a sensitive guy and I want people to like me.” This final admission reveals an inner softness that is even more familiar than the image he projects. Even someone at the top of his game wants approval.


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