Party Like It's 2007

Ever so quietly, holiday parties on Wall Street are returning to their former splendor.
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By Partybus Buenos AIres [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Partybus Buenos AIres (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Here's a little etiquette tip: In the years following a catastrophic global economic meltdown, those whom the popular imagination bears responsible should refrain from ostentatious displays of wealth for a little while. It might be a quaint custom, sure, but society expects a bit of restraint from those it blames – rightly or wrongly! – for financial calamity. No open bars, no Blue Man Group performances, no strippers. At the very least, keep all that on the down-low.

But at some point that mood begins to thaw. Champagne flutes and tassels slowly reemerge from their long hibernation and the scent of hors d'oeuvres settles like a mist over lower Manhattan. Apparently, now is that time. From Reuters:

Wall Street holiday parties this year took place in luxury venues like the Waldorf Astoria, featured women dressed as glowing angels, and had fine wine, scotch and bourbon on hand. But organizers of the soirées, conscious of tighter budgets and public scrutiny, are not eager to discuss the merriment. [...]

Catering managers and event planners said that while holiday party spending is still down relative to its pre-financial crisis peak, Wall Street is starting to come back on the scene. "It's a more optimistic climate," said Bill Spinner, director of catering at The Pierre, a Taj Hotel in New York.

Part of this is just a cost issue. For the most part, profits on Wall Street still haven't returned to their pre-crisis peak, and there's less room on the balance sheet for splashy fêtes. Few banks were listed as big partiers in the Reuters piece, but hedge funds and private equity giants made up for their lack.

  • Private equity firm Apollo Global Management celebrated at a midtown Greek restaurant where living statues dressed up like Grecian gods posed for attendees.
  • Cliff Asness's AQR Capital essentially dragged a circus sideshow into Cipriani, complete with snakes, swords, and champagne poured through nitrogen steam.
  • Blackstone took over the Waldorf Astoria for a suit-and-tie affair whose crowd, Reuters said, “appeared to mostly be men.”

Parties outside of New York, however, seem to be where the real action is. Take PIMCO, whose London bash reportedly featured a performance from the Brazilian Fantasy Dance Company, whose shows look something like this:

In Poland, Credit Suisse threw a Great-Gatsby-themed party, in which a giant projection of Leo DiCaprio as Gatsby smiled down on revelers who wore Roaring-Twenties garb. Let's just hope no one reminds Credit Suisse how that story – and that decade – ended.

Got a good holiday party story? Hit us up: tips@dealbreaker.com or (646) 820-4847.

Wall Street holiday parties are back...but don't tell anyone [Reuters]

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Chuck Schumer's Gonna Have To Do A Lot Better Than Dinner If He Wants A Piece Of Cliff Asness

Earlier today, Politico ran a story titled "Can Chuck Schumer win back Wall St. for Democrats?" Apparently the New York Senator recently "embarked on a fence-mending campaign with senior Wall Street executives, many of whom have grown furious with the Democratic party," in a charm offensive that has included "holding private dinners [including one put on by Pershing Square manager Bill Ackman], organizing high-end fundraisers for Democratic candidates and quietly pressing for super PAC donations." According to Politico, "the outreach appears to be working: Hedge fund and private-equity executives have held six different fundraisers for Democratic challengers and senators at Schumer’s request, sources say." Some financial services employees, however, are not so easy. Take Cliff Asness for example. The AQR manager happened to read the piece and here's what he had to say about it: From: Cliff Asness Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 01:08 PM To: AQR lieutenants, other top hedge fund managers Subject: Can Chuck Schumer win back Wall St. for Democrats? Good title question. Only if Wall Street is so f---ing stupid as to defy credulity, honor, and morality. So, yeah, probably. Best line: “Chuck Schumer is pro-business". Yeah, ones that buy him off in explicit crony-capitalism, but he wants to regulate and tax to death ones that don't. Don Corleone was also pro-business. You guys say this stuff with a straight face huh? C p.s. Sorry about the multiple emails, merging lists (though that is probably not the thing that upsets people) While the above response should come as a shock to exactly no one, we don't think Schumer should give up on Asness so easily. The guy just wants to be wooed. Start with some limited edition action figures, add some $700 bottles of wine, and go from there.  You whip out a Mego Elastic Batman, he's listening. You show up with a a matching Captain America shield tattoo but instead of on your forearm it's on your face? He's nominating you for President. You're welcome.

Greenwich, Connecticut Nobody Threatening To Dethrone Area Hedge Fund Manager As Biggest Middle-Aged Superhero Fan In Town

Exhibit A: Friday morning at AQR, August 10. Cliff Asness glanced pensively at a candy-colored array of Marvel superhero figurines lined up along his east-facing window. Spiderman. Captain America. The Hulk. Iron Man. Comic book heroes of his boyhood days on Long Island.--The Quants, by Scott Patterson, page 100. On an August morning, Asness walks to his sun-dappled office windowsill and picks up a Captain America action figure. The hedge-fund mogul owns a panoply of action heroes, from the Hulk to the Silver Surfer, and the comic books that spawned them.--Bloomberg Markets Magazine, October 7, 2010 "Hedge funds charge far too much in general by claiming to be geniuses," says Asness, lounging on a sofa in his corner office, surrounded by foot-high plastic models of comic book heroes.--Fortune, December 19, 2011 As a child, Clifford Scott Asness gave no sign of his future as a Wall Street tycoon. He was born in October 1966 in Queens, New York. When he was four, his family moved to the leafy suburban environs of Roslyn Heights on Long Island. In school Asness received good grades, but his interest in Wall Street didn’t extend beyond the dark towers of Gotham in the pages of Batman. Obsessed with little besides girls and comic books, Asness was a listless teenager, without direction and somewhat overweight. At times he showed signs of a violent temper that would erupt years later when he sat at the helm of his own hedge fund.--The Quants, by Scott Patterson, page 12. “His super-villains are intellectual dishonesty and ignorance,” says Jonathan Beinner, a managing director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and a former classmate of Asness. “When someone offers an opinion that Cliff feels is incorrect or dishonest, whether it be related to investments, politics or pizza, he feels it is his duty to stand up, even if it’s not in his best interest.” Asness admits to a superhero complex. His favorite Marvel comic book character is Captain America, who gains strength with the help of a secret serum and whose shield can be used as an indestructible weapon. Asness has an image of the shield tattooed on his left arm.--Bloomberg Markets Magazine, October 7, 2010 Exhibit B: The above is a rendering of a Batcave that will soon be built in the home of an unnamed Greenwich resident. When it is completed in Novemeber, the spread will include "a Batcomputer, Batmobile, Batsuits, 180 degree film screen, sound effects, gargoyles and even a Bat-themed elevator." The problem? This guy is not only infringing on Asness's territory as resident super hero obsessive/aficionado/scholar-in-residence/neighbor who dresses up and role-plays his character of choice but is apparently too cowardly to show his face or reveal his name so that Cliff might confront him. The other problem? Captain America doesn't have some kind of cool underground lair setup of his own. The only recourse? Someone spends the next couple weeks writing a series of fan fiction that describes his house, and then spends $20 million to have that built. Greenwich Resident Building $2 Million Batcave In Home [CTNews] Dark Knight superfan spends $2MILLION creating home cinema replica of Bruce Wayne's cave [DM]