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Opening Bell: 1.30.15

lloyd blankfein gary cohnCurrency Tumult Stokes Big Bets (WSJ)
A surging dollar is pummeling currencies around the globe amid efforts to boost economic growth, prompting a wave of investor bets to profit from the upheaval. Many global central banks are weakening their currencies as they try to counter signs of economic gloom, signaled by falling commodity prices, declining inflation and softening growth expectations. Those shifts, together with moves such as this month’s surprise decision by the Swiss National Bank to abandon its three-year-old policy of limiting gains in the Swiss franc against the euro, have fed a jump in the price swings of currencies. These dynamics are tempting investors to make large bets on currency moves, potentially fueling further exchange-rate shifts.

Shake Shack, Born in a Park, Is Going Public With Big Dreams (Dealbook)
Conceived as a homage to the friendly Midwestern fast-food joints of Mr. Meyer’s childhood, Shake Shack has become one of the most prominent purveyors of fast-casual food. That sector, dominated by the likes of Chipotle, has fundamentally reshaped the fast-food industry with its emphasis on using fresh ingredients. In short, Americans seem willing to pay more for fast food made better, so long as they are still served quickly.

Millionaire investor exposes affair rather than make court-ordered payment (NYP)
Last July, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Shirley Kornreich had ruled that Hugh Levey, co-founder of Gruppo, Levey & Co., owed the Virginia investment firm Pensmore the $1.3 million after he lost the money in a bad investment. But instead of coughing up the cash, Levey engaged in a drawn-out court battle that made public documents about his 12-year affair with business partner and TV talking head Claire Gruppo, according to court papers. The filings also unsealed Levey’s highly confidential net-worth statement that is part of his divorce. It shows that while Levey was cash-poor — he only had $500 in a checking account, $200 cash on hand and zero savings — he’s worth $29 million. The funds are tied up in a $15 million Fifth Avenue apartment, a $5 million Greenwich home and millions in various trusts and personal items. Levey “deliberately keeps himself cash poor in order to avoid judgments, a trick he learned in a personal bankruptcy in the 1990s,” the Pensmore suit says. Meanwhile, the 65-year-old Harvard MBA relies on his mistress, Gruppo, 61, to dole “out money to him directly and indirectly through the various trusts and entities they control together,” the suit says.

Billionaire Ken Griffin seeks trial date in divorce battle (Chicago Sun Times)
Griffin, the state’s wealthiest man, filed a brief in Cook County court Thursday seeking a definite trial date to resolve what has become a contentious divorce from his wife, Anne Dias. In the pleading, Griffin claims his wife, who is the mother of his three young children, wants $1 million a month in what is described as “allegedly ‘child-related expenses.’ ” Griffin claims the amount includes $300,000 per month for a private jet, $160,000 a month for vacation rentals, and $60,000 for an office space and professional staff — “all supposedly for the children,” according to the filing. A spokesman for Dias, who recently reverted to her maiden name, shot back: “This filing is riddled with falsehoods and just another vindictive attempt by Ken Griffin — Illinois’ richest billionaire — to punish his family and avoid his clear responsibility under Illinois law to maintain his children’s lifestyle.

Here’s Why Super Bowl Ticket Prices Are Skyrocketing (Bloomberg)
“This is really something we never anticipated,” said Will Flaherty, director of growth at SeatGeek. “The cheapest seat on SeatGeek right now is $8,000, but no site seems to have any inventory.” Flaherty believes speculative buying is behind the spike. Ticket brokers frequently sell “air” to their customers, taking orders before they have tickets in hand. “We’ve noticed significantly more speculative selling activity than in recent years,” Flaherty said. “Over the last few days, those sellers have been scrambling to buy up tickets to fill their orders, resulting in the Super Bowl ticket version of a short squeeze. Brokers with tickets in hand have been taking advantage of their leverage, raising prices dramatically and arbitrarily withholding some of their inventory.” Ety Rybak, co-founder of the high-end brokerage Inside Sports & Entertainment Group, has spent more than anticipated this time around to fulfill orders before the game. “I can tell you some ugly horror stories about what I have had to pay. But that’s part of the business,” he said. “If I sold you tickets for $2,500, and I have to pay $7,500 to do it, unfortunately that’s the world that I chose to live in.” The flip side to the high costs is a brisk business in late orders.

Guys Transporting Pot Report Themselves to Idaho Police by Mistake (NewsRadio)
Eastern Idaho police say two men transporting marijuana from California to Montana called 911 while in Idaho after mistakenly believing undercover officers had discovered their secret. But police in Rexburg say they weren’t aware of the drugs until the two men called on Friday to report their location and the 20 pounds of pot worth $16,000. The Idaho State Journal reports that police arrested 21-year-old Leland Ryan Kaimipono Ayala-Doliente and 22-year-old Craig Sward Holland. Read more »

Write-Offs: 1.29.15

$$$ Shake Shack Prices IPO at $21, Above Expectations [WSJ]

$$$ How Goldman Banker Became NFL’s Go-To Stadium-Finance Guy [Bloomberg]

$$$ Jack Ma Loses $1.4 Billion as Alibaba Stock Drops [Bloomberg]

$$$ Former Hedge-Fund Managers Hit the Comeback Trail [WSJ]

$$$ Alec Baldwin Swears Off Another Airline [Gawker] Read more »

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Man Allegedly Steals Insider Info, Doesn’t Trade On It

Back to shilling zit cream.

Back to shilling zit cream.

Here’s a heartwarming, refreshing story: A former Bush administration spokesman turned TPG Capital spokesman saw some bad things going down deep in the heart of Texas. Or didn’t see anything, but was pissed because he was denied a promotion. In any event, one of the perks of being TPG spokesman is that you have a laptop and a Blackberry full of confidential information. Maybe even embarrassing information, or, better yet, material non-public information. Which means that you can either become an insider-trader, whistleblower or disgruntled employee seeking his revenge by leaking information to liberal rags.

Now, the refreshing part: The spokesman, Adam Levine, chose option B or C (depending on who you ask). Read more »

A Spokane, Wash., resident named Lisa Brown said after she called Comcast to cut her bill, her husband’s name was changed from Ricardo Brown to “A- -hole Brown.” ven worse, Comcast wouldn’t change the name despite her calls and a visit to the office. Comcast finally apologized after the incriminating bill was posted on, a consumer advocate blog. “We have spoken with our customer and apologized for this completely unacceptable and inappropriate name change,” Comcast said in a statement. “We have zero tolerance for this type of disrespectful behavior and are conducting a thorough investigation to determine what happened. [NYP]

  • 29 Jan 2015 at 3:36 PM

Cheech And Chong Go To The New York Stock Exchange

Still looking for the right business partners.

Still looking for the right business partners.

There is still, to the best of our knowledge, no such thing as a pot hedge fund. But soon there will be pot stocks, which means that a pot hedge fund cannot be far off. To say nothing of pot analysts. And pot ETFs. And pot mutual funds. Read more »

Some suggest that Greece’s new communist prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, is all talk, what with his desire to remain within the Eurozone and consequent complete lack of any leverage of any kind. But if he did actually do the things he’s pledged to do, namely tell Angela Merkel to give him a better bailout deal or go to hell: Well, that would not be good for Greece’s credit rating, according to Fitch, Moody’s and S&P. And Greece’s credit rating is already not very good. Read more »

brian moynihanThe good news? Traders are getting a bonus. The less good news? Said bonus is going to look like this: Read more »