Embattled hedge-fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen, whose SAC Capital Advisors is charged with insider trading, paid spiky-haired chef Guy Fieri $100,000 “to be his friend for a day,” a new book reveals. Cohen paid Fieri to drive around Connecticut with him to reenact a fantasy episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” reveals Allen Salkin in his book, “From Scratch: Inside the Food Network.” But after “Cohen paid Guy Fieri $100,000 to be his friend for a day,” Salkin writes the odd couple became so close that the chef’s top-rated show even featured Cohen’s favorite hot-dog spot, the (perhaps appropriately titled) Super Duper Weenie. — NYP, October 21, 2013
October 3, 2011
The place: Steve Cohen’s Greenwich, Connecticut mansion. The time: Saturday afternoon. The mood: Freaked out.
“Breathe, Steve, breathe.”
“Everything is going to be fine.”
“Who wouldn’t love you?”
“Boss, I’ve spoken with his assistant, and have been assured that he is extremely excited.”
Steve said nothing but continued rocking back and forth in the fetal position on foyer floor, where he’d been since late morning. The words of his wife, general counsel, and president had done nothing to comfort him, nor did the awkward pats on the shoulder offered by his chief financial officer.
“Honey, at least eat something, please,” Alex implored. That he was nervous about what someone thought of him was concerning enough but the fact that her husband had barely touched his breakfast was officially scaring Mrs. C.
“How about a some toast?” SAC Chief Financial Officer Dan Berkowitz asked. “Just a little bite?” he suggested gently, moving the bread toward Cohen’s lips like an airplane. Normally Berkowitz would never have dared to get that close, but these were unusual circumstances.
Cohen pushed the toast away.
“Come on,” Berkowitz tried again. “Just a little taste, just for us.”
Cohen pushed the toast away harder.
“Steve, really, it’s going to be okay,” Alex told him.
“Easy for you to say!” Cohen shouted, suddenly snapping up off the floor.
“Honestly, boss what are you worried about?” SAC President Tom Conheeney asked. “You’ve wanted this for so long.”
“Yeah, I know, and now I’m sick to my stomach about it!” Cohen shared in an uncharacteristic flash of vulnerability. It was a side of Cohen no one had ever seen before– needy, panicky, plagued with self-doubt– and it was extremely unnerving.
“What if this whole thing was a mistake? What if he doesn’t like me? What if it takes away some of the mystique of the show? What if I get in that car and I can’t think of one thing to say? What if–”
Steve had many more what-if scenarios to share but before he could finish, he was interrupted by the blare of a novelty car-horn. Everyone in the room froze. A look of terror flashed across Steve’s face. The silence was broken only by Cohen’s housekeeper, whose name he could never remember, who he’d tasked earlier that morning with taking the first shift at the window.
“Mr. Cohen!” she shouted. “He’s here.”
November 2007, SAC trading floor.
Cohen’s secretary carefully made her way towards her boss’s desk, where he sat in front of seven monitors. Many windows were open, but he appeared engrossed in one in particular. With his head partially obscuring the screen, she could see that he was streaming some sort of video but couldn’t tell of what. Not wanting to disturb him, she waited patiently at a safe distance until he was finished, innocently taking peeks over his shoulder every now and again to try and figure out what had his attention. There was a flash of bleached blonde hair. A goatee. A pot of chili. Cohen had his headphones plugged in so she couldn’t make out what the people in the clip were saying but every so often the boss muttered, “Mmm, that looks good,” and at one point scribbled “Gotta check this place out” on a sheet of paper.
After three or four minutes, she built up enough courage to interrupt him. She knew from experience he didn’t like to be bothered while working, but she had an important message to deliver.
“Mr. Cohen,” she meekly managed, sending him into a furious spasm as he quickly minimized the window and ripped out the ear buds.
“What is it?!” he shouted.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Cohen, but the men are here with the shark and want to know where they should put it,” she said, apologetically.
“Right,” he barked. “Let’s go.”
She scurried behind him toward the lobby. Out of the blue mood swings were not unusual but…she had never see him so angry.
June 2009, the Cohen Manse.
Alexandra Cohen relaxed with a glass of chardonnay in the drawing room. With the kids at friends’ houses and Steve tied up at work, she was looking forward to some well-deserved me time. But after about an hour, the quiet of the house was shattered by the sound of a shout and the clatter of cast iron on marble. A smoke detector began blaring and she jumped up to investigate the situation.
Rushing into the kitchen, she watched a shocking scene play out before her. It was her husband, at the enormous island, in a room she was certain he had never before set foot in.
Spotlessly clean just a few hours early, it was a complete mess. There were pots bubbling over with mysterious liquids on the Cornue Grand Palais range. There was flour and salt everywhere. A melange of melted cheeses was baking into a hard crust on the stove top. And Steve, shirt newly splattered with oil stains, was standing at the $47,000 sink, running cold water over his band aid-wrapped hands, with what resembled fajita filling at his feet, surrounding a smoking, inverted griddle.
Alex opened her mouth to say something, but before anything came out, her eyes fell on the copy of “Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It,” opened to the recipe for fajitas, that had arrived by FedEx the day before.
SAC’s business development team had chosen Napa for the site of its annual investor meeting for obvious reasons: to wine and dine clients. And yet, at the big gala that night, catered by The French Laundry, Tom Conheeney couldn’t help but notice that Cohen had only picked at his food. Now, driving back from the airport where he’d dropped off a few very important friends of the firm, he couldn’t believe his eyes. There, in the window of Guy Fieri’s first restaurant, Johnny Garlic’s, was Steve. He’d heard the rumors around the firm for years, but had chalked them up to just that: rumors. Now he was finally seeing it for himself.
Conheeney made an illegal left turn and pulled into the parking lot. After sitting in his car for what felt like an eternity, he cut the engine and walked in. A hostess asked if she could seat him.
“No, I’m meeting someone here. There he is.”
Taking a deep breath, Conheeney walked slowly up to Cohen, who was seated at an elaborately-decorated booth, eating what appeared to be a gussied-up Hot Pocket–the SAC president later learned that it was one of Fieri’s patented pepperoni mozzarella sticks–and waited for his boss to acknowledge him.
Several moments passed. And then: “Tom! What… What are you doing here?”
“I don’t know Steve. Why don’t you tell me?”
Later that night, back in Cohen’s hotel room
Cohen had spilled his guts to Conheeney and now it was all he could think about. Or, more specifically, the promise Conheeney had made to him. After confessing his obsession with Fieri, and especially the show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” Cohen shared his burning desire to meet GF. The SAC Capital president could see for himself that Cohen was in deep but still regarded the comment as simply a pie in the sky dream that Cohen wasn’t really serious about.
“No, Tom, I’m serious,” Cohen had told him that night at Johnny Garlic’s. “I need to meet him. I watch the show and all I can think about is how great it would be to be on it with him, driving around, grubbing, talking, just the two of us.”
“Well, sure I mean–”
“No, Tom, you don’t get it. I have to meet him. And he has to eat at Super Duper Weenies.”
“Okay, well have you tried contacting–”
“I’ve tried a hundred times! I wrote him a fan letter with the offer of $100k to hang out with me and heard nothing back! I even figured out his phone number but froze up when he answered and had to hang up. Tom, you have to help me.”
“Okay, Steve, I help y–”
“Do you promise? Do you swear? Because Tom, I don’t want to get my hopes up. I couldn’t take the idea of going to Super Duper Weenies with Guy and then having it dashed away.”
Conheeney honestly did not know what to say. He half expected this whole thing was an elaborate joke because the idea that it was real was almost too ridiculous to imagine. He’d seen Cohen manically focused on things before– buying a major league baseball team for one, but buying a baseball team was one thing and being obsessed with meeting Guy Fieri was another. Still, his job in large part was to keep Cohen happy, and if this kept him happy…
“Yes, Steve. I promise.”
October 2011, SAC HQ, Tom Conheeney’s office
It wasn’t that the SAC Capital president had been putting off his top level assignment, but other things– no more important but slightly more pressing– had gotten in the way. Government investigations. The convictions of former employees. Issues like that, which took up a good deal of his and other senior SAC employees’ time. Most people would’ve understood that such things took precedence. Steve,though, was a man possessed.
For example, while he and SAC Capital general counsel Peter Nussbaum were meeting with SAC’s outside counsel to discuss strategy, Steve ducked his head into Conheeney’s office and asked “Got a minute?” Assuming it was important, Conheeney excused himself. On the other side of the door, Conheeney asked what was up.
“Oh, nothing, just wanted to see if you’d made any progress on that thing we talked about.”
“Not yet, Steve.”
“Because it’s been almost a month since you promised you would, so…”
“Right, I know Steve, I’m going to get on it just as soon as I can. But kind of in the middle of something here, buddy, okay?”
“Sure, sure, just let me know when we make some headway.”
Then, days later, during a meeting with SEC officials, Cohen passed Conheeney a note at the conference table they were sitting at. Conheeney figured it was some sort of tactical suggestion about where to take the conversation, only to open up the folded sheet of paper to see a drawing– and a pretty skillful one at that– of Cohen and Fieri sitting on the hood of a convertible eating hotdogs, with a giant “When” followed by several dozen question marks in the column.
After several other such instances, Conheeney realized that the matter was more pressing than it seemed.
He picked up the phone to dial Fieri’s press rep. Before the second ring, Cohen came bursting through his office doors, presumably having told Conheeney’s secretary to alert him immediately if any such action took place.
“Are you doing it now?!” Cohen asked frenetically.
“Yeah, Steve, doing it now,” Conheeney said with his hand over the receiver.
“Well, but wait, what are you going to say,” Steve asked, with more than a note of panic in his voice.
“I’m just going to tell them–” someone on the line picked up. “Hi, this is Tom Conheeney,” the SAC president said.
Cohen scurried around the desk to try, grabbing the receiver to try and listen in a the same time before being pushed off.
“Yes, I’m calling about the possibility of Mr. Fieri making some time to meet with Steve Cohen.”
“Tell them I’ve seen every episode!” Cohen hissed.
“Yes, yes, he is quite the fan,” Conheeney said.
“Tell them I’ve dressed up as Fieri every year for Halloween for the past three years!!” Cohen yelled.
Conheeney waved Cohen off. The seconds seemed like hours.
“Yes, Mr. Cohen did send that letter. And he is quite serious.”
October 3, 2011, back at the Cohen Manse
The novelty car horn blared a second time.
“Okay, sweetie, you can do this. It’s gonna be great,” someone said. It was probably Alex, but at this point, it could’ve been anyone.
The front door swung open. There was Fieri, in his convertible, which had a special sidecar hanging off of it made specially for the occasion. On the seat was a pair of old-fashioned aviator goggles. Cohen looked at them, and then at Fieri, and then pointed to himself as if to say, “For me?”
“Yeah, pal, for you,” Fieri told him with a smile on his face.