New York Power Pairing: ICM Partners' 'Binky' Urban and New Yorker Writer Ken Auletta Share a Literary Life
"Now it would probably be a no-no to date someone who basically worked for you," best-selling author Auletta says of his early romance with book agent Urban, his wife of 39 years.
This story first appeared in the April 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
By her estimation, uber-book agent Urban says she has read about a million words written by Auletta, her husband of 39 years. Known for media-titan deep dives like his National Magazine Award-winning profile of Ted Turner, Auletta, 73, isn't repped by Urban, 69. That task is left to "my very able colleagues" at ICM Partners, she says. Still, when not reading books written by her who's-who roster of clients including Pulitzer Prize fiction winners (Anthony Doerr, Donna Tartt and Jennifer Egan) and Nobelist Toni Morrison, Urban pores over every sentence constructed by Auletta, who has written 11 books, five of them best-sellers. "We talk mainly about ideas, what he's going to be writing next," says Urban (who was dubbed "Binky" by her grandmother and hasn't answered to Amanda since). Auletta, whose most recent book was Googled: The End of the World as We Know It, likewise is an asset to Urban when it comes to clients like Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson. "He knows tech really well," she says. "Not everyone is inside that world as well as he is."
The pair, who have one adult daughter, met in 1972 at the NYC Off-Track Betting Corp., where Auletta was executive director and Urban a senior marketing executive. Sitting in their book-filled prewar doorman apartment on East 72nd Street, Auletta chuckles at the naughtiness of their romance. "Now it would probably be a no-no to date someone who basically worked for you," he says.
After dabbling in politics as campaign manager for would-be governor of New York Howard Samuels, Auletta resisted Urban's advice to become a stockbroker and transitioned to journalism. "He was making $100 a week writing a column for The [Village] Voice. Basically I sort of supported us," says Urban. "I worked in magazines for a long time until I decided to become an agent. I took a huge salary cut to do that, and he supported me. It's worked out."
The two spend their spare time reading, naturally, and playing tennis at their getaway home in Bridgehampton. "We go out there most weekends, and we just chill," says Auletta. "I like to cook; she likes to eat."