ideas

Investors are bidding up prices of rare single-malt Scotches from distillers such as Macallan, Bowmore, and Dalmore, and Japan’s Karuizawa and Yamazaki. In January, Sotheby’s sold a 6-liter Lalique decanter of Macallan “M” single malt—one of only four made—for a record HK$4.9 million. “I’m not really an advocate of buying whisky and flipping it,” says Heather Greene, director of whisky education at the Flatiron Room in Manhattan, a bar for spirit lovers that offers tasting classes to aspiring connoisseurs. “But I’m getting questions from people asking if they should buy a couple of cases and sell them for double.” According to the Investment Grade Scotch index, published by consulting firm Whisky Highland in Tain, Scotland, prices for the top 100 single malts rose an average 440 percent from the start of 2008 through the end of July this year. That compares with a 2 percent drop in the Liv-ex 100 Benchmark Fine Wine Index and a 31 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. [BusinessWeek]

Last summer, Adrian Eady, a banker with Royal Bank of Scotland Group, was nearly crushed hauling a crate of feta cheese off a forklift truck in a North London warehouse. A few months earlier, the state-controlled bank sent Mr. Eady to wear an apron and serve cappuccinos in a cafe. Before that, he was selling novelty greeting cards in a shop. Following a political uproar over a lack of bank lending to small businesses, 81%-government-owned RBS created its “Working With You” program. All RBS corporate bankers must spend at least two days a year working for a customer free of charge. “We do anything they ask,” Mr. Eady says. “If they say ‘make the tea,’ then we make the tea.”[RBS]

D.A. Davidson’s Tim Ramey enjoyed shoving his vindication, re: Herbalife, in Bill Ackman’s face—see his post-reaudit victory, pre-trip to Disneyland speech here—to end last year so much that he’s planning on another year of it. Read more »

In her fascinating 1999 biography of J.P. Morgan,”Morgan: American Financier,” Jean Strouse writes, “He could, he said, do a year’s work in nine months but not in twelve.” Morgan would keep a workaholic’s schedule while in New York but would break for frequent trips to Europe, flopping around its spas to ward off depression and his hypochondriac fears of ill-health. He saw nothing macho about refusing holidays. The current crop of Wall Street CEOs might benefit from a similarly restorative schedule. If Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein were to hit Positano and J.P. Morgan’s Jamie Dimon to take the waters in Baden-Baden from May to September, it may not help their image. But following Morgan’s example, it might be better for banks’ general health if their executives didn’t always feel they are in permanent crisis mode. [WSJ]

  • 26 Mar 2012 at 1:56 PM

Let’s Help Greg Smith Name His Book

Earlier today, the Times reported that former Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith– he of third place Maccabiah Games finishes and very public breakup letters fame–, along with his newly acquired agent (Paul Fedorko), have been making the rounds at various publishing houses for the last week, pitching a book CNBC’s Kate Kelly says may go for more than $1 million at auction. Read more »

Over the weekend, the LA Times reported that a group headed by Steve Cohen was among those that advanced to the second round of bidding for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mark Cuban, “veteran baseball executive” Dennis Gilbert, and former Dodgers players Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser are out; at the top of Cohen’s elimination list remain Magic Johnson and Joe Torre. Obviously, we have no idea whether or not the SAC Capital manager will emerge victorious. Either way, though, something about all this has been troubling us: namely how acquiring a baseball team figures into SC’s long-term plans. Read more »

Earlier today, we discussed the upcoming bonus season and the fact that, for those who are employed by banks, it’s looking to be something of a disappointment. Numbers are estimated to be down 20-30 percent on average from last year, with fixed-income being hit the hardest. For many, it’s cause for some preemptive JO&C’ing at the desk this morning and some curling up into the fetal position this afternoon. According to Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, however, you drying those eyes, picking yourself up off the floor and thanking your lucky stars you’re getting anything ’cause if he were in charge? You’d get no-thing. Read more »