How do the world’s leading hedge fund managers go about assembling their teams? While some choose the standard head hunter and “pitch me a stock” route with candidates who’ve had at least a few years of business experience and proven track records, others prefer a more outside the box approach. Bridgewater Associates, for instance, has said that instead of going after veterans of Wall Street, it likes to hire people straight out of college, when their minds are still malleable. Founder Ray Dalio has stated: “Interest in the subject matter is a minor consideration…We are first interested in people’s values, second interested in their abilities, and least interested in their precise skills. We want independent thinkers who are willing to put aside their egos to find out what is true.”

Similarly, Pershing Square’s Bill Ackman, who has never been one to follow the crowd, eschews the typical hiring process in identifying talent. Instead, Ackman relies on gut instincts when it comes to making personnel calls, many of which occur outside the confines of the investing world. For example, one former analyst named Oliver White was hired after serving as Ackman’s guide on a fishing expedition in Tierra del Fuego. (Per Christine Richard’s Confidence Game: “For six days, Ackman and White, a philosophy graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, talked and fished. White explained technical details to Ackman about fly selection, casting the line, and luring the fish. Meanwhile, Ackman spotted the next member of Pershing Square’s investment team. “At the end of his stay, he asked me– no, he told me– I should come to New York and work for him.”) While Ackman was obviously impressed with White’s talent, it seems the offer was made on the basis of spending six days peering into the guy’s soul and seeing something special he knew in his plums would carry over into activist investing, rather than as a barter deal for White to teach Bill his craft, which is another way people have been hired at the fund.

Days after Bill Ackman won control of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP), the nation’s second-largest railway, he was at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center trying to control his backhand against Wall Street’s biggest hitters. “My groundstrokes were actually pretty good,” the 46- year-old chief of Pershing Square Capital Management said toward the end of play at the R Baby Foundation doubles tournament. The event was a fundraiser to aid emergency pediatric care. “I had too many unforced errors.”


Ackman’s partner was 25-year-old Mariusz Adamski, a business major and No. 1 doubles player at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. After they were introduced three years ago by Jeffrey Appel, an investment banker, Ackman hired Adamski at Pershing. “I told him I’ll teach him the investment business and he’s teaching me tennis,” said Ackman, who played high-school tennis but did crew at Harvard College.

Where will Bill find his next superstar? Let us be the first to suggest the ranks of street magicians, which  have have all the classic BA lures, most notably the possession of a skill he’d like to acquire. Many of them are probably untapped investing geniuses, waiting for this opportunity.

Harvard, Princeton Bankers Seek Net Glory In Tennis Match [Bloomberg]
Confidence Game [Christine Richard]

40 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
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Comments (40)

  1. Posted by guest | May 21, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    So…Ackman's going to hire Greg Smith next?

  2. Posted by Guest | May 21, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    B Ackman tried to hire me too.

    – J Travolta

  3. Posted by Indubitably | May 21, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    He won't find them at JC Penny because no one shops there anymore

  4. Posted by agreatdaytothink | May 21, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    Or Target, since nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.

    – A picnic loving bear.

  5. Posted by guest | May 21, 2012 at 4:51 PM

    This creepily seems like the beginning to a Nabokov story

  6. Posted by Ty's roommate | May 21, 2012 at 4:51 PM

    I used to have a lot of independent thoughts that made me a helluva interesting guy. Then, one night, I got kicked out of college for night putting. Just putting at night. I think if you and I played a few rounds, we could really hit it off (plus, I have a way with the young ladies if that kind of thing floats your boat).

    Mitch Cumsteen

  7. Posted by PermaGuestII | May 21, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    I would avoid hiring any magicians. Ditto bridge players.

    -Former BSC employee

  8. Posted by Yikes | May 21, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    It's Christine Richard you idiot – not
    Harper. And this book came out years ago. Please try to add some value.

  9. Posted by Winkelvii Circa 2003 | May 21, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    Crew at Harvard is clearly the path to success!

  10. Posted by CruiseShipMasseuse | May 21, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    Both John Travolta and Bill Ackman offered my jobs while they were on vacation…

  11. Posted by Guest(s) | May 21, 2012 at 4:58 PM


    -David Copperfield
    -Warren Buffett

  12. Posted by MadeIt | May 21, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    How do I apply to this 'job'?

  13. Posted by BessLevin | May 21, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    The post wasn't actually pegged to Confidence Game but the Bloomberg story about the tennis guy, which came out today. The referencing of CG was to establish that this is not the first time Ackman has hired someone in an unconventional way. You get it now or do I need to start from the beginning and speak slower?

  14. Posted by Sean | May 21, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    This probably explains why Captain Ron has been on a few earnings calls as of late.

  15. Posted by MF Global HR | May 21, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    Ballroom dancers probably also a category to avoid.

  16. Posted by RBS Derivatives MD | May 21, 2012 at 5:03 PM

    I wish everyone offered that start from the beginning and speak slower option…

  17. Posted by VonSloneker | May 21, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    Dude, this could be my big break!

    – Trent, Phish Tour 2010 – VP Devil Sticks Juggling & Nitrous Baloon Sales

  18. Posted by Marlin Hanna | May 21, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    You see, Mr. Ackman, the snipe is a wily bird and it doesn't easily fall victim to an amateur. That is why an expensive guide is needed. Now, grab your pillowcase and flashlight. Step heel to toe for the best sound reduction as we move through the marsh. Go ahead and crimp your flourescent light bands around your hat. The red, green, blue and gold lights on your pith helmet will attract the male of the species. You know, I guess snipe hunting must be a lot like the business you're in Mr. Ackman?

  19. Posted by Whip It MD | May 21, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    Bro, ditching us for Pershing is like, so, like, not cool bro.

  20. Posted by Wilbur | May 21, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    SWP looking for opportunity at non-gated hedge fund. Willing to trade opportunity for piano lessons.

  21. Posted by Lisa | May 21, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    Any chance on us making that a package deal?

  22. Posted by guest | May 21, 2012 at 5:18 PM

    So instead of hiring a rich brat who went to a top 25 university, he hired a rich brat who went to a top 25 university and can fly fish? What a novel idea……..

  23. Posted by Guest | May 21, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    Apparently this has not sold yet,

  24. Posted by Timmy G. | May 21, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    I feel his pain, any interest in bundling unsold but for sale real estate into some type of derivative instrument?

  25. Posted by gab | May 21, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    Hey Bill, let me tell why I love JCP. It's just like using a Rio Grande nymph on a brown trout. Huge returns…

    Oliver White

  26. Posted by HungryIntern | May 21, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    Matching your drink to your tie is definitely big balling it.

  27. Posted by Chart Addicts Anon | May 21, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    I'm starting to go into hard core chart withdrawals, where's Matt????

  28. Posted by Guest | May 21, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    I'll teach you how to look like less of an asshole: put the drink down when the camera comes out.

  29. Posted by Guest | May 21, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    That is not sharp shirt, and it does not match with green!

    -Jacobine Mugato

  30. Posted by Hiring Genius | May 21, 2012 at 6:15 PM

    I've only hired one guy so far. It was the guy who sat in my box at the Breeder's Cup at Churchill Downs last November. If you can handicap horses, you can learn to pick stocks.

  31. Posted by Louie Ranieri | May 21, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    Pop Quiz hotshot:

    When I look back at my life I want to see a:

    A) A gentleman of Harvard
    B) A fucking Billionaire, ten times over (with hopefully a strong Pre-Nup)

  32. Posted by Guest | May 21, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    I find a lot of talent at the Taco Bell in Penn Station

    -Jersey Shore Casting Director

  33. Posted by The Real Ranieri | May 21, 2012 at 7:15 PM

    C) A few dozen pizzas and gallons of guacamole.

  34. Posted by Louie Ranieri | May 21, 2012 at 8:57 PM

    D) A burning pair of pants and some great balls of fire.

  35. Posted by Steve Scuba | May 22, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    J Paulson must have hired his scuba instructor. Being this far underwater could be dangerous for a novice.

  36. Posted by Guest | May 22, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    that was brutal. please refrain from testing your bad material here as it brings us down.

  37. Posted by Guest | May 22, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    Guess this means the Madoff bros are viable canidates, well at least one is..

  38. Posted by Laffer not Funny | May 22, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    Only 5? What gives ?

  39. Posted by Guest | May 22, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    When you want to bench press 1000 lbs – call me.

    -Aleksy Vaynor

  40. Posted by Rayford Echeverry | September 19, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Pretty educational thank you, I reckon your current followers may well want even more well written content articles of this nature continue the excellent operate.