Justin Bieber definitely makes a bunch in the bank, but he doesn’t seem to know so much about banking. When the teenybopper star and his crew hit Susan Sarandon’s ping-pong club SPiN Wednesday, they were directed to a private room away from the masses, but told they’d have to give up the space at 6:30 p.m. for a private party. When the time came, a spy says, a SPiN staffer popped into Bieber’s VIP room to tell him it was time to go. The singer’s posse didn’t want to leave and started to kick up a fuss, but they were told, “We’re really sorry, the room is booked . . . J.P. Morgan is having a private party.” Our spy says Bieber then piped up and shot back, “Why does he get the room and not us?” [NYP via Tracy Alloway, related]
As you may have heard, eleven short days from now Grand Central Publishing will release Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story. The book is the memoir of former Goldman employee Greg Smith, who in March of last year penned an op-ed for the New York Times called “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs,” a resignation letter of sorts in which Smith detailed the ways the firm had disappointed, sickened, and ultimately failed him, from opting for “shortcuts” over “achievement” to becoming, in the twelve years he worked there, a place that only cares about one thing and one thing only: “making money.” While perhaps another person would have turned a blind eye and said nothing, Greg had an obligation, as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist and a Maccabiah Games bronze medal finisher in ping-pong, to say ENOUGH. To violate his employer in the most gruesome fashion possible (that is, publicly), in front of clients and other interested parties. To let the world know this place he worked at for over a decade could continue to be a criminal enterprise but that he was moving on.
The piece, as you might have imagined, did not please many people at Goldman Sachs nor did the $1.5 million deal Smith scored shortly thereafter to write the book. In September, a spokesman for the firm issued a delightfully bitchy, exceptionally underminey comment to the press re: Smith’s tale being no more interesting than that of a disgruntled first-year analyst who thinks he’s got a story to tell and yesterday, amazingly and almost unbelievably but you must believe it because here it is, leaked details of Greg’s performance reviews to the Financial Times which, spoiler alert, are less than flattering. Read more »
Back in March, a young man named Greg Smith published an Op-Ed in the Times called “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.” Greg wrote that despite joining a firm that, in the beginning, cared about “teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by clients” and not “just about making money,” he’d ultimately come to be sickened by a place that, twelve years later, he couldn’t even recognize. A place that, on Lloyd Blankfein and Gary Cohn’s watch, had lost its way. A place that, he’d come to see, was devoid of any sort of morals, whatsoever. A place that needed to take a long hard look at what it had become. A place that, he predicted, was not long for this earth. Because unlike Smith, whose proudest moments in life– “being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist and winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics,” respectively– involved hard work and no short cuts, “Goldman Sachs today,” Smith wrote, is all “about the shortcuts and not enough about achievements.” Goldman Sachs 2.o, one might say, hasn’t worked an honest day in its life and that didn’t feel right to Smith anymore.
The piece, which was said to come as shock to Goldman, did not please many people on the inside, nor did the $1.5 million deal Smith scored shortly thereafter to write Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story, out October 22. Here’s how Greg’s publisher describes WILGS:
From the shenanigans of his summer internship during the technology bubble to Las Vegas hot tubs and the excesses of the real estate boom; from the career lifeline he received from an NFL Hall of Famer during the bear market to the day Warren Buffett came to save Goldman Sachs from extinction-Smith will take the reader on his personal journey through the firm, and bring us inside the world’s most powerful bank.
And while higher-ups at GS may have been initially worried about the potentially damaging revelations that would appear in the book, apparently time, a slap in the face and an order to ‘get it together you pustulant milquetoasts’ by the ghost of Lucas van Praag has resulted in this delightfully bitchy, exceptionally underminery comment from 200 West: Read more »
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 »
this is important
Earlier this week, a man named Greg Smith resigned from Goldman Sachs. Smith informed his bosses of his decision to quit around 6:40 AM local (London) time and, a few hours later, circled in the rest of the world with an Op-Ed in the New York Times, which he penned not out of a desire to violate his (former) employer in the most gruesome fashion possible in front of clients and other interested parties but because he believed it to be the right, nay, the only thing to do. In the piece, Greg explained that his decision to leave the firm after 12 years of service did not come easily. But, after months of beating down a nagging little voice, a moment of truth presented itself that he could not deny. During rehearsals for the college recruiting video he starred, Greg realized that the lines he was delivering re: Goldman being a great place to work were a lie. A bald-faced one, in fact. Goldman had changed in the years since the Greg-ster arrived, and whereas it once felt like home and the people in it family, he’d come to regard it as a den of evil, run by monsters. Monsters who called clients “muppets”; who only cared about making money; who valued “shortcuts” over “achievement.” Of the latter, Greg spoke from plenty of experience. Though his personal achievements are too numerous to mention in full, they include being named a Rhodes scholar (finalist), learning to tie his shoes at the age of 22, winning third place for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games, and being named captain of the South African national table tennis team. OR WAS HE? Read more »
Greg Smith Apparently Confident Once Goldman Sachs Has Time To Cool Off They’ll Be Open To Hearing What He Has To SayBy Bess Levin
People who have spoken to Mr. Smith said that he was flying back to New York on Wednesday night to see his family and friends. These people say Mr. Smith still has no concrete plan for what to do next. He tells friends that he wants to effect change in Goldman’s business practices, although it is unclear what that change would be. [Dealbook]
Jewish Ping-Pong Tournament Participant / Sixth-Year Goldman Sachs Vice President Is Looking For His Next ChallengeBy Matt Levine
Gillian Tett has a book called “Fool’s Gold: The Inside Story of J.P. Morgan and How Wall St. Greed Corrupted Its Bold Dream and Created a Financial Catastrophe.” It’s a pretty good book about the creation and rise to prominence of synthetic CDOs, and I’m sure the subtitle isn’t her fault, but it’s always bothered me, because how exactly was the “bold dream” of creating synthetic CDOs “corrupted” into … like … selling more synthetic CDOs? If you think synthetic CDOs are a Bad Thing, they were a Bad Thing at their creation. This is not an orphanage that was taken over by bandits and turned into a source of black-market organs. It was a financial derivative that was sold to people looking to buy financial derivatives.
Similarly, Greg Smith spent twelve years flogging equity derivatives to “two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia” and is just now discovering that they’re designed to make money for his employer? I imagine his contacts at these hedge funds reading his op-ed today and being like “holy shit, Goldman was trying to make money off of us?” Wait no I don’t. I’m pretty sure they wanted to make money too.* Read more »
I will sell this house today
“How does Bill Ackman do it” is a question the investing community surely asks itself on a daily basis. Three words: Berkshire Mountains hideaway. Outsiders may figure in-depth research combined with skillful and ethical activism and a highly concentrated portfolio are the keys to Pershing Square’s success but, really, a 100-acre spread in upstate New York is the engine that drives this firm.
Specifically, the one found in Chatham, New York, that Ackman “scraped together the money” to buy in 2003, just months before his second act hedge fund launched, to arguably more success than its predecessor, Gotham Partners. Coincidence? Bill doesn’t think so. “This place has really good investing karma,” Ackman tells us. (Since buying the house, Pershing has had 21 percent compound returns. You do the math.) Is this information relevant in any way to your universe? If you’ve got $5 million to spare, a yen for sweeping views of the Berkshire mountains, and a desire to pump up lackluster returns it might be.
Despite spending many a happy (and profitable) weekend at the place over the last nine years, Ackman has with great reluctance and probably more than a few tears decided to put it on the market, having precious little time to make the (quick and painless!) trip up now that his three children have many an extracurricular commitment to tend to. According to Bill, he’s offering you “the deal of a lifetime” (and, in our professional opinions, we agree), when you consider 1) what he bought it for ($3.2 million, then put another $1.5 million in) and 2) what you’re getting. Things like: Read more »
Earlier this week, we took a serious look at a sport beloved to a certain hedge fund in Stamford, CT: ping pong. Second only to trading and hunting humans, p-pong is the pastime that is often cited internally as the secret to this firm’s success, the practice of which has made what started out as a 2-bit boiler room into the powerhouse fund it is today. A prescient call, as today Bloomberg has published an article quoting table tennis experts on ping pong being the hottest new thing in the business community.
“It’s like a real-life version of LinkedIn,” says founder Peter Farnsworth. “We’re bringing the business community together through pingpong.”
According to Alan Williams, of sports management firm North American Table Tennis, “Everyone who plays table tennis [will] live longer, be smarter, and be more attractive.” While true, this affirmation did not please our hedge fund manager who, as we all know, is above all else a trend-setting icon, not a follower. He doesn’t hop on bandwagons, he builds them from the ground up (see: skinny jeans) and the burns them down when others pile on, years later. Read more »
Bloomberg Brief reports that Verition Group’s Ken Lin and Jeffrey Zhou won the inaugural “Class of the Hedge Fund Titans” ping pong tournament (which benefited the Robin Hood foundation), held at SPiN April 13, besting players from a field that included Louis Capital Management, Eton Park, Candlewood Investment Group, Greenlight Capital, LuxEn Capital, Whitebox Advisors, Samlyn Capital, Bharat Capital LLC, Dymaxion Capital, Tiger Global, York Capital and SAC. Which brings to a little story about heart. Read more »
From an internal JPM update: Read more »