About six weeks back, investor Carl Icahn announced he’d be closing the hedge fund he opened in 2004. The move- and the fact that Icahn is 75 years old- got the Times thinking. Thinking things like 1) Icahn's getting up there in years and might die soon (as evidenced by the headline "The Raider In The Winter" and 2) That he'd "lost so much money during the financial crisis that he is still a bit shaken by the experience." Icahn addressed the second point, which he says is false, in a letter to the editor over the weekend. The short version? The Grey Lady can suck it. The slightly longer version:
To the Editor:
While I found your article, “The Raider in Winter” (April 17) to be informative, I believe readers might draw conclusions that are inaccurate. The article states, “Mr. Icahn lost so much money during the financial crisis that he is still a bit shaken by the experience.” I find this statement to be nonsense.
In my business, if losing money shakes you up, you won’t last until “spring,” let alone become a “raider in winter.” Ironically, and at the risk of being immodest, I believe the financial crisis was my finest hour as an investor and as a man who stood by his commitments.
During the crisis, many hedge fund investors demanded their money back, but many funds refused. My fund returned capital to any investor who asked. To meet withdrawals, from November 2008 to March 2009, I invested $500 million of my own capital, rather than having the fund sell significant positions at depressed prices. While I believed then that my investment might have a major short-term loss, it became one of my best ever, resulting in a 61 percent annualized return.
The hedge fund in general certainly was not a losing experience. My investment in it over the last seven years totaled $3.4 billion. My profit on that, including fees, now totals $2.1 billion.
Running the fund has been enjoyable and exciting, not a “headache.” While I remain bullish for the second quarter, I believe that within the next several years, there will be a severe market break. I don’t wish to manage other people’s money through another 2008. It may sound corny, but it bothers me more to lose money for those who have entrusted me than to lose my own capital. I am battle-hardened; they are not.