John Arnold: Poster-Boy For Hedge Funds?

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One of the problems with trying to write about the top hedge fund traders is that most of them are notoriously private. Part of this is a security concern—hedge fund guys all know the stories of top money men who have been kidnapped, conned, blackmailed and burglarized. But another part is a kind of superstition—there’s this notion out there that talking about your trading is like announcing your wish before you blow out you candles: somehow you’re going to jinx the thing. Or, at the very least, invite some rival up-and-coming kid to try to take you down a couple of notches by betting against your strategies.
Solengo founder Brian Hunter is notoriously publicity shy. This tactic seems to have worked wonders. Where Amaranth Advisors has entered near mythical status as the symbol of hedge fund failure, the man whose natural gas trades brought down the hedge fund is not widely known outside of financial and journalistic circles. One intrepid Canadian reporter recently told us he had to go as far as knocking on the door of Hunter’s Calgary mansion in order to get a word out Hunter. And, for some reason, we can’t get an interview with Hunter.
Sometimes you have to wonder if this strategy is backfiring. It might not be entirely rational but one of the factors behind public support of hedge fund regulation is the feeling that these guys are operating in the shadows. And most people associate secretiveness with underhandedness, figuring that hedge fund traders must be manipulating markets or engaging in insider trading or something. The clichés start rolling. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, government regulation and mandated disclosure substitute for sunlight, and let’s get those shadowy operatives.
Hedge funds are just starting a public relations campaign to overcome this but there might be an even better way. Sure, maybe you want to keep Brian Hunter out of the news—although he’s managed to land himself in the papers lately. But what about the guys who seem much more likable?
We’re thinking John Arnold might make a good candidate. By all accounts he seems like a good guy. There’s a couple of image problems—he’s an Enron zombie so you never know if some zealous prosecutor is going to try to throw him in jail, his trading may have helped bring down Amaranth which might seem mean and he apparently shares the Hag passion for expensive art (real Americans don’t trust art or the folks who spend millions on it.)
But according to the whispers we’ve heard and reports we’ve read, Arnold seems like a nice guy. Here’s today’s Guardian reporting on Arnold.

Art Gelber, a Houston energy consultant, said Mr Arnold was "very much the gentleman," adding: "I think he knows the market pretty well. He's got skills in his background and he's got the kind of positioning and edge to succeed - although I don't know whether last year was repeatable."
Recently married, Mr Arnold owns a home in Houston's plush River Oaks area and is said to have a keen interest in art. A spokeswoman for Centaurus declined to comment although she did provide a recent newspaper article highlighting Mr Arnold's support for a children's charity called the Knowledge is Power Program.

See what we mean? Maybe Arnold can be the anti-Brian Hunter in more ways than one.
American hedge fund trader shrugs off Enron scandal to earn £2.7m a day [The Guardian]

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