The Pirate Pose

Portfolio, May 2007.

There are some heavy-hitting Medicare-qualified hedge fund managers, notably Carl Icahn, 71, and the home run king, T. Boone Pickens, 78, who made $1.5 billion personally in a single year, 2005. But most of these people are in their late thirties and early to mid forties. For men making, in many cases, tens of millions and up per year, they qualify as young. They talk about business in young-warrior metaphors: pulling the trigger (making huge risky bets on the market); mowing them all down (overpowering companies that try to block your strategies); This is war! (get out of my way or else I’ll make you suffer); Surrender your booty! (I’m a corporate raider poised to take over your company); We don’t eat what we don’t kill (if you, the investor, don’t make a profit, then we in the hedge fund’s management don’t make a profit ourselves, something oddly true in spirit although, as we shall soon see, not in fact). These people tend to be bright and well-educated, many at Harvard, Princeton, and other top-ranked colleges. They come from well-educated families. They still enjoy the virgin animal health of youth. They are flush with optimism and confidence, as well as money. With all that going for them, what inna nameagod is their problem?