Not a day goes by that I don't curse Bernie Madoff, for robbing Marc Dreier of the insane media attention he deserved for a scam maybe not as big as but exponentially more creative and ridiculous than what the simpletons over at the Lipstick building had going on. Today we have a bittersweet glimpse of what that would've been like, courtesy of Bryan Burrough's interview with MD. Let's just start with the images above. Would Bernie, or any financial services hack for that matter, agree to such a photo shoot? No! Meanwhile you've got Dreier mugging it up for the camera. Is that his "sexy face" you see in the bottom right corner? Yeah it is! Whereas some people have turned down multiple offers for a tasteful centerfold spread in Bloomberg Markets Magazine, you've got this guy setting the room on fire with minimal direction from the photographer to "WORK IT, OWN IT." And the outtakes, my god, the outtakes. Don't even hesitate to dream they involve something along the lines of this:
In addition to lapping the competition when it comes to poses, Dreier is more willing to open up about "why I did it" and "what it all means" than any of his peers. He's like Mackenzie Phillips in a smoking jacket. (Also, he apparently speaks with "a slight lisp" which, knowing he was big on impersonations, may or may not be affected and modeled after Dreier's muse, the Representative from Massachusetts.) Anyway, how did this happen? Did he have some sort of trauma that led MD the path of Ponz? Yes.
First, off, there was 9/11:
Dreier watched the towers fall from his Park Avenue office. He doesn't blame any of what happened on the events of that day, but he does trace the source of almost all his ensuing difficulties to the months after 9/11. "I had a very emotional response to that," he says. "I remember feeling an emptiness I couldn't shake in the last quarter of '01, feeling emotionally drained and looking to find myself."
And also, his wife left him, which was upsetting, sure, but not as much as being plagued by the thought that he was supposed to have a fabulous life by this point, and at the age of 52 there was little fab to speak of.:
"I was very distraught," he says. "I was very disappointed in my life. I felt my career and my marriage were over. I was 52 and [I felt] maybe life was passing me by.... I felt like I was a failure." His feelings of despair were deepened by his keen, lifelong sense of entitlement, a hard-core belief that he was destined to achieve great things.
It might seem ridiculous to you, but we're not just talking about, oh, I woke up one morning and decided I had to be great. He had been planning on this happening for years.
"I [grew] up experiencing a lot of success, even in elementary school," Dreier says.
And then. Then, there was the beach house.
For months he brooded over the wreckage of his life. His epiphany, Dreier remembers, came in the summer of 2003, during a long walk he took on the beach near his vacation home, in Westhampton Beach, New York. He experienced a moment of clarity, he says, in which he saw the path he needed to take. It happened one day when he found himself staring at a palatial beachfront home. His own house was inland. He had always wanted one right on the beach.
He knew the beach house was the key to feeling good again. He needed that beach house. Some investors fill the void with hookers and drugs. Others binge on Zebra Cakes. Marc Dreier needed a house a stone's throw from the ocean.
"I wanted to just, well, appease myself," he says. "Well, not appease myself. Gratify myself ... I was very, very caught up in seeing the criteria of success in terms of professional and financial achievement, which I think was a big part of the problem. But I thought it would make me happy. And I wanted to be happy again."
It'd be enough to send anyone to a place where the next logical thing to do would be impersonate hedge fund managers and stage fake conference calls! And honestly, not to insult anyone here, but do you know how easy it is to scam these hedgie guys? Like crazy easy. It almost seems like the crime would be to not scam them, if you think about it.
If he was to become a thief, Dreier reasoned, his target was obvious: hedge funds. It was 2004, and every dinner party he attended seemed to be thronged with young hedge-fund billionaires eager to throw around investment money. "I had to come up with some quote-unquote great idea for a hedge fund," Dreier remembers. "I couldn't sell anything tangible. It had to be a financial instrument at some level to sell to a hedge fund. So I came up with the idea of selling debt."
You know how the rest goes. Prison. Twenty year sentence. But please: do not assume you've seen the last of Marc Dreier.
"I expect to spend most of the rest of my life in prison," he tells me. "I hope I don't die there. I've been blessed with good genes, you know.