Crikey founder Stephen Mayne in 2003 (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

Perhaps I should have taken the hint when no one asked me to write anything, but I can’t help but feel waves of nostalgia and gratefulness that Crikey is now, remarkably, 20 years old.

While my contributions to Crikey over the years have been, at best, in a very supporting role, the impact Crikey has had on me — a former lawyer and non-journalist who has in 15 years written around 1000 articles and a (somehow) best-selling business book — has been profound.

My first experience with Crikey was as a bored articled clerk at the blue-chip law firm Freehills back in 2003. Randomly searching Google, up popped a strange website. Like most, I was attracted by a free trial. Within months, lured by a free copy of Rich Kids (the fantastic profile of the collapse of One.Tel by Paul Barry), I was tempted into a paid subscription.

Back then I would print out the often 25-page daily Crikey and read it on the way to and from 101 Collins Street each day on the train.

It became compulsory reading (and in 17 years, I haven’t ever missed an issue, although I still miss the rough and tumble days of Stephen Mayne and Eric Beecher’s early days under editor Misha Ketchell).

Whether true or not, Mayne once credited me (indirectly) with saving Crikey. Shortly before he sold the business, I convinced my bosses at Freehills to take out a group subscription to Crikey of around 50 subs. My rationale being that first I wanted to save a few bucks, and second there were likely relevant articles about our clients and potential clients that the small investment would reap.

That subscription allegedly kept the lights on long enough for Stephen to sell the business, famously, for $1 million.

Fast forward a year and my best mate and I had left our corporate jobs and started our first business. With a fair bit of time on my hands, one day in 2005 in the midst of the Steve Vizard insider trading scandal, I sent Crikey an idea about an article for then-legal contributor (and former ASC chief) Peter Faris.

Faris was too busy at the time and Ketchell asked if I (as a corporate lawyer still holding a practicing certificate) could write an article instead.

I can’t remember what I wrote (I doubt it was any good), but Misha asked me to write some more. I remember in the early days readers who disagreed with my views (of which there were many), would not infrequently (nor unfairly) ask, “who the hell is Adam Schwab?”.

Little did they know how valid the question was given the writer was a 26-year-old guy who’d never done a day’s journalism training. 

Like any opinion writer, I’ve had some wins (exposing ABC Learning’s financial chicanery, predicting the 2007 stock market crash) and some very embarrassing losses (once suggesting Apple was overpriced at $80… it’s now $292).

But writing to you, Crikey’s loyal readership, has been a privilege. Even while my real business has grown in the last 15 years from a couple of guys working in a tiny office to a global business with a turnover of more than $500 million, I still get a kick out of reading comments at the bottom of an article. Whether it be virulent abuse or wholehearted agreement, what matters is that someone cares enough to login and comment).

While its readership numbers pale against that of News Corp or Nine, Crikey continues to punch well above its weight in terms of influence. And perhaps with some bias, I like to think Crikey has made Australia a better place — be it from exposing corporate malfeasance or pointing out how our rights have been eroded or simply broadening readers’ minds.

I look forward to the next 20 years.

Adam Schwab has been a Crikey contributor since 2005. He is the author of Pigs at the Tough: Lessons from Australia’s Decade of Corporate Greed and has been on the board of Private Media since 2019.