Soldier of Fortune (magazine)
|Editor/Publisher||Susan Katz Keating|
|Frequency||Daily web magazine|
|Company||Omega Group Ltd.|
|Based in||Boulder, Colorado|
|Language||English, many others|
Soldier of Fortune (SOF), subtitled The Journal of Professional Adventurers, began as a monthly U.S. periodical published from 1975 to 2016 as a mercenary magazine devoted to worldwide reporting of wars, including conventional warfare, low-intensity warfare, counter-insurgency, and counter-terrorism. It was published by Omega Group Ltd., based in Boulder, Colorado. In May 2022, founder Robert K. Brown announced that the publication had been sold to author and security journalist Susan Katz Keating.
Soldier of Fortune magazine was founded in 1975, by Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Reserve, (Ret.) Robert K. Brown, a Green Beret who served with Special Forces in Vietnam. After retiring from active duty, Brown began publishing a “circular”, magazine-type publication with few pages which contained information on mercenary employment in Oman, where the Sultan Qaboos had recently deposed his father and was battling a communist insurgency. Brown's small circular soon evolved into a glossy, large-format, full-color magazine.
In 1970, Brown co-founded Paladin Press in conjunction with Peder Lund. The company published non-fiction books and videos covering a wide range of specialty topics, including personal and financial freedom, survivalism and preparedness, firearms and shooting, various martial arts and self-defense, military and police tactics, investigation techniques, spying, lockpicking, sabotage, revenge, knives and knife fighting, explosives, and other "action topics". After five years, he left in 1975 to start SOF magazine.
Significant to the early development of SOF was its unprecedented, successful recruitment of foreign nationals to serve in the Rhodesian Security Forces, during the Rhodesian Bush War (1964–79). During the late 1970s and the 1980s, the success and popularity of a military magazine such as SOF led to the proliferation of like magazines such as Survive, Gung Ho!, New Breed, Eagle, Combat Illustrated, Special Weapons and Tactics, and Combat Ready. SOF has been published by the Omega Group Ltd., in Boulder, Colorado. At the height of its circulation in the early 1980s the magazine had 190,000 subscribers. The April 2016 issue of Soldier of Fortune was the final print edition; further editions have only been distributed online.
"Gun for Hire" lawsuits
During the late 1980s, Soldier of Fortune was sued in civil court several times for having published classified advertisements of services by private mercenaries. In 1987, Norman Norwood, of Arkansas, sued SOF magazine, because of injuries he suffered during a murder attempt by two men hired via a "Gun for Hire" advertisement in the magazine. The US District Court denied the magazine's motion for summary judgment based upon the Constitutional right of free speech under the First Amendment. The Court said, "reasonable jurors could find that the advertisement posed a substantial risk of harm" and that "gun for hire" ads were not the type of speech intended for protection under the First Amendment. In the end, Norwood and Soldier of Fortune magazine settled his lawsuit out of court.
In February 1985, John Wayne Hearn, a Vietnam veteran, shot and killed Sandra Black for a $10,000 payment from her husband, Robert Black. Black communicated with Hearn through a classified advertisement published in Soldier of Fortune, wherein Hearn solicited "high-risk assignments. U.S. or overseas". In 1989, Sandra Black's son Gary and her mother Marjorie Eimann filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against SOF magazine and its parent publishing company Omega Group Ltd., seeking $21 million in redress of their grievance.
The jury found Soldier of Fortune grossly negligent in publishing Hearn's classified ad for implicit illegal activity (murder) and awarded the plaintiffs $9.5 million in damages. However, in 1990 the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the verdict, saying that the standard of conduct imposed upon the magazine was too high, because the advertisement was ambiguously worded.
In 1989, four men were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the 1985 contract killing of Richard Braun, of Atlanta, Georgia. The killers were hired through a classified services advertisement published in SOF magazine that read: "GUN FOR HIRE". Braun's sons filed a civil lawsuit against the magazine and a jury found in their favor, awarding them $12.37 million in damages, which the judge later reduced to $4.37 million. Nonetheless, in 1992 the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld the judgement of the jury, saying "the publisher could recognize the offer of criminal activity as readily as its readers, obviously, did". The Brauns and SOF magazine settled the wrongful-death lawsuit for $200,000. One consequence of the lost lawsuits was the magazine's suspension of publication of classified advertisements for mercenary work, either in the U.S. or overseas.
- Jim Graves, former managing editor and columnist.
- Col. David "Hack" Hackworth, US Army (ret./deceased)
- Wayne Laugesen
- Ltc. Robert C. MacKenzie, US Army (ret./deceased)
- Ltc. Oliver North, US Marine Corps (ret.)
- Dale Dye, US Marine Corps (ret.)
- Al J Venter
- Michael Echanis (1950–1978), Vietnam veteran, Purple Heart recipient – martial-arts editor
- John Plaster, US Army (ret.)
- Lamy, Philip. "Millennialism in the Mass Media: The Case of 'Soldier of Fortune' Magazine." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 31, No. 4, December 1992, pp. 408-424. doi:10.2307/1386853. JSTOR 1386853.
- Omega First Amendment Legal Fund, All Business, allbusiness.com
- "Soldier of Fortune Founder Robert K. Brown Passes the Torch to New Publisher After 47 Years". Soldier of Fortune Magazine. 2022-05-06. Retrieved 2022-05-07.
- "A Message From SOF Publisher SKK: A Tribute to RKB, and Looking Ahead". Soldier of Fortune Magazine. 2022-05-06. Retrieved 2022-05-07.
- Robert K. Brown Archived 2008-06-10 at the Wayback Machine, Biography, National Rifle Association
- "ExpertClick - Error Page". www.expertclick.com. Archived from the original on Oct 18, 2006. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
- "Paladin Press - Publishers of the Action Library - Hotels Worldwide". www.at-hotels.com. Archived from the original on Mar 28, 2007. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
- Ward Churchill, "U.S. Mercenaries in Southern Africa: The Recruiting Network and U.S. Policy", Africa Today, Vol. 27, No. 2, External Intervention in Africa (2nd Qtr., 1980), pp. 21–46
- James Taulbee, "Soldiers of fortune: A legal leash for the dogs of war?", Defense & Security Analysis, 1475-1801, Volume 1, Issue 3, 1985, pp. 187–203
- "Contact Us Archived 2011-09-30 at the Wayback Machine." Soldier of Fortune. Retrieved September 24, 2011. "2135 11th St. Boulder, CO 80303"
- Meany, Thomas (August 1, 2019) "White Power." London Review of Books, Vol 41, No 15. Page 5.
- "Soldier of Fortune magazine to stop publishing after 40 years". Guns.com. Mar 1, 2016. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
- The Internet Claims Another Victim – ‘Soldier of Fortune’ Magazine To Cease Hard Copy Publication, Go Digital Only Soldiers Systems. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
- Norwood v. Soldier of Fortune, Inc., United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division, January 29, 1987
- Smothers, Ronald, Soldier of Fortune Magazine Held Liable for Killer's Ad, New York Times, August 19, 1992
- Belkin, Lisa, Soldier of Fortune Magazine Is Sued Over Slaying, New York Times, February 14, 1988
- Award in Case of Killer Hired by Ad Is Overturned, Associated Press, August 18, 1989
- "Transcript of the Fifth Circuit's decision in Eimann v. SOF". Retrieved May 30, 2020.
- Moscou, Jim, Soldier of Fortune Toughs Out Changing Times, New York Times, October 16, 2000
- Clausing, Jeri (Mar. 2, 1988). "Jurors trying to decide whether Soldier of Fortune should..." UPI.