Over at New York today you will find an excerpt of Kevin Roose’s new book, Young Money. The passage is an extended version of a story written by Roose for the Times, about a 2012 gathering of the members of a “secret Wall Street fraternity” called Kappa Beta Phi (which included Wilbur Ross, Ace Greenberg, and Robert Benmosche). Like college-age members of Greek organizations 30 and 40 years younger than the people assembled that night at the St. Regis, “Wall Street Kappas” initiate newbies (called “neophytes) with hazing, enthusiastically take part in cross-dressing, and are blissfully unaware of how embarrassed they should be for each other. In the extended version of the piece, we learn that the fraternity’s motto is “Dum vivamus edimus et biberimus” (Latin for “While we live, we eat and drink”); that private equity exec Paul Queally wrote and delivered this joke: Q: “What’s the biggest difference between Barney Frank and a Fenway Frank?” A: “Barney Frank comes in different-size buns; and that Fortress exec Mike Novogratz would have lifted Roose up by the tux lapels had his “brothers” not intervened.
The neophytes – who had changed from their drag outfits into Mormon missionary costumes — broke into their musical finale: a parody version of “I Believe,” the hit ballad from The Book of Mormon, with customized lyrics like “I believe that God has a plan for all of us. I believe my plan involves a seven-figure bonus.” Amused, I pulled out my phone, and began recording the proceedings on video. Wrong move.
“Who the hell are you?” Novogratz demanded.
I felt my pulse spike. I was tempted to make a run for it, but – due to the ethics code of the New York Times, my then-employer – I had no choice but to out myself.
“I’m a reporter,” I said.
Novogratz stood up from the table.
“You’re not allowed to be here,” he said.
I, too, stood, and tried to excuse myself, but he grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go.
“Give me that or I’ll fucking break it!” Novogratz yelled, grabbing for my phone, which was filled with damning evidence. His eyes were bloodshot, and his neck veins were bulging. The song onstage was now over, and a number of prominent Kappas had rushed over to our table. Before the situation could escalate dangerously, a bond investor and former Grand Swipe named Alexandra Lebenthal stepped in between us. Wilbur Ross quickly followed, and the two of them led me out into the lobby, past a throng of Wall Street tycoons, some of whom seemed to be hyperventilating.