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Christopher Byron, Financial Writer and Author of ‘Martha Inc.,’ Dies at 72

Christopher Byron, a veteran financial writer who skewered Wall Street shenanigans and chronicled the ups and downs of business figures like Martha Stewart in best-selling books, died on Saturday in Bridgeport, Conn. He was 72.

His death, at Bridgeport Hospital after a long illness, was announced by his daughter Katy Byron.

Long before movies like “The Wolf of Wall Street” or “The Big Short” were popular fare, Mr. Byron was revealing the seamy underside of the investing game. His books and articles exposed penny-stock scammers and greedy chief executives.

His 2002 book, “Martha Inc.: The Incredible Story of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia,” was made into a television movie starring Cybill Shepherd.

About 16 years earlier, Mr. Byron had written about the fumbling early attempts by executives at Time Inc. to adapt to a rapidly shifting media landscape. His 1986 book, “The Fanciest Dive: What Happened When the Giant Media Empire of Time/Life Leaped Without Looking Into the Age of High-Tech,” foreshadowed the equally disastrous merger of Time Warner and AOL a decade and a half later.

Indeed, the Time Inc. tale has held up well. In a 2008 column, Joe Nocera of The New York Times ranked it among the best nonfiction business books of recent decades.

Mr. Byron’s 1992 book, “Skin Tight: The Bizarre Story of Guess v. Jordache,” looked at the fierce rivalry of two blue-jean powerhouses.

“He was dogged in his journalism,” said Joni Evans, an editor and literary agent who had represented Mr. Byron. “Chris was passionate about his subjects and never let go.”

Christopher Michael Byron was born on Dec. 27, 1944, in Washington, D.C. His parents, Edward Armour Byron and the former Ella Katherine McCune, both worked in radio and later in television — his father as a producer, his mother as an actress — giving Mr. Byron an early taste of life in the media.

After dropping out of Stamford High School in Connecticut in 1962, Mr. Byron served in the Navy for two years before talking his way into Yale, even though he did not have a high school diploma. He graduated with honors in 1968.

That same year, he married Maria Los, whom he had met while he was at Yale and she was a student at Connecticut College in New London. They divorced last year.

Besides his daughter Katy, a managing news editor at Snapchat, Mr. Byron is survived by another daughter, Jana Byron, a maritime lawyer; a son, Nicholas Byron, an artist; and a brother, Kevin Byron, a nature photographer.

After earning his first bylines at The Hour in Norwalk, Conn., and graduating from Columbia Law School in 1972, Mr. Byron joined the staff of Time magazine. He was later a foreign correspondent for Time in Bonn, Germany, and London.

After stints at Forbes, New York magazine and Esquire, Mr. Byron wrote a financial column for The New York Observer from 1995 to 2001. He was then a columnist at The New York Post until 2006.

“This is a guy who cared about the average person and dug through these incredibly obtuse documents, found fraud and exposed it,” Susan Antilla, a fellow financial journalist, said. “But he was an elegant writer and he did it in a way that was understandable. There are a lot of people who could have lost money if not for what Chris wrote.”

Mr. Byron savored the life of an author and investigative reporter, Ms. Antilla said. When he was once asked by a student in a news writing class that she taught whether Mr. Byron would choose the same career now, Ms. Antilla recalled, he did not hesitate.

“I wouldn’t trade this for the world,” he said.

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