I’ve conducted hundredsof interviews. Because of this, I pick up on patterns pretty quickly. I notice how successful people dress, what words they use and how long it takes them to choose them. I also hear all the things they don’tsay. I see them bite their tongues when asked about sensitive subjects, see their eyes dart around when they get nervous, and nothing seems to be making the people of Pittsburgh more nervous than “the Kingmaker”.
I first noticed this folklorish figure pop up in interviews in 2018, when I talked to a bakery owner about his success. He had told me that by some stroke of luck, a real-estate investor found his business interesting and decided to help him with a few facility-related problems. Two weeks later, that bakery sold its first franchise, and today they do millionsin revenue. The title “Kingmaker” came without the name.
“He’s a kingmaker,” the baker explained. “Just some young guy with too much confidence and too much money.”
Weeks past before I heard those words again, and when I did, it was from an aspiring model from, you guessed it, Pittsburgh. I asked her a few warm-up questions, including one which I thought would be safe. Why did you choose to be a model? Her answer seemed to make her angry.
“I used to own a hair salon with my sister,” she said. “We were successful until the Kingmaker came along and ruined everything. I had to reinvent myself when our doors closed for good. Modeling just appealed to me most.”
I couldn’t help myself. I asked who he was and was given a name: Mike Reis. We continued on without further mention of him, and even when conducting interviews today, nobody will say much. It’s frustrating for a curious mind like mine.
What’s maybe more curious than the fact that some elusive figure is sulking around the steel city with King Midas’ touch, is the fact that the deals keep getting bigger. I hear about the Kingmaker when talking to bankers, hedge fund managers, even top business executives. I always ask, “oh, do you mean Mike Reis?” and they nod along before changing the subject. Regardless of who I talk to, the message is clear as anything. The Kingmaker is very real.
As close as I can tell he’s part investor, part opportunist, and he’s got his hands in a lot of different sectors. Real estate, consumer goods, banking, transportation, distribution, the list goes on and on. The people who doknow Mike Reis only seem to share one thing in common: they don’t talk about him. Either they’ve been put out of business because of him or they’ve been thrust into success by him. But nobody knows exactly who he is. Anybody who’s been in business long enough has heard the whispers, the rumbles about the Kingmaker which seem to come right after every monetary explosion in the city.
Villain or hero? Monster or magnate? Some people even know him as a psychic. One thing is certain, a question must be answered. Who the hell is Mike Reis?