A burrowing reporter who can deconstruct a balance sheet in 20 minutes, Mr. Welles and investigative business journalism have become synonymous in a distinguished career.
It has included being the business editor of Life in the 1960s and, briefly, the Saturday Evening Post; a vigorous free-lancer for such publications as Institutional Investor and Esquire; director of the Knight-Bagheot Fellow Program in Business and Economic Journalism at Columbia University; a hard-charging reporter for Business Week; and, finally, a senior editor of that publication's finance section.
While at Life, the Princeton graduate wrote a piece accusing the oil industry of conspiring not to develop Colorado oil shale. When his editors held off running it, Mr. Welles sold it to Harpers, and was abruptly fired from Life, an account of which is in his book about the matter, "The Elusive Bonanza." He vigorously attacked the business establishment, but occasionally, the establisment bit back.
When his next book, "The Last Days of the Club," a classic on the impact of the end of fixed commissions in 1975 on the New York Stock Exchange, Time refused to run a review of it on the grounds that "Welles is no friend of ours," as one editor said to the reviewer.
Mr. Welles was honored with the Society of American Business Editors and Writers' 1997 Distinguished Achievement Award, and won a National Magazine Award for Institutional Investor.
But one of the adopted Mr. Welles' greatest reporting efforts, which took years of checking telephone books in cities he visited, was identifying and locating his biological parents. Not surprisingly, his father turned out to have been a private detective.
Scheduled for retirement from Business Week at the end of 1999 after 16 years, Mr. Welles, married 22 years to Nancy Martin Welles and the father of three children by a previous marriage, intends to devote time to a new interest: fine art photography.