Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remind me not to piss off Felix Salmon

Case in point, check out his sharp, funny and endlessly quotable take down of Skybridge's Anthony Scaramucci. Here's a taste:

What Robinson nails is the way that this is what Scaramucci does — it’s his job. Scaramucci is a fund-of-funds manager, posting returns even he admits are lackluster: he more or less tracks the S&P 500, while making big, risky bets (a third of his assets are in MBS), investing in leveraged hedge funds, and reserving the right not to redeem his clients’ money upon request. Which means that he only has two ways to make money: either find stupid people to give him their money, or else shower himself with so many conspicuous indicia of success that people just want to buy into his perceived success.

OK, make that one way to make money.

It’s far from clear that Scaramucci actually is successful, in financial terms, by Wall Street standards. He certainly spends a lot — millions of dollars — on various forms of conspicuous consumption and self-promotion. But he’s not making a lot: since he’s a fund-of-funds manager, he’s making 1.5-and-zero, rather than 2-and-20. And under the terms of his deal with Citigroup, a substantial chunk of that 1.5 goes straight to them. He has to run Skybridge, of course, with all the employee compensation, compliance costs, and the like that entails. He’s regularly writing seven-figure checks to pay for things like the Davos Tasting of ludicrously expensive wine. And of course he has to pony up charitable donations, too, so as to be able to get up in front of a well-heeled crowd to receive the Hedge Funds Care Award for Caring. (I’m not making this up.)

Scaramucci’s fake-it-till-you-make-it approach might end up working: his fund is still growing, and Robinson says that he “has become the Wall Street player he aspired to be when he first landed at Goldman some 22 years ago.” He’s living proof of what Windward Capital’s Robert Nichols is quoted saying at the end of the article: “Performance isn’t what beats a path to your door. It’s sales and marketing.”

But he’s not a stock-picker, or even, really, a hedge-fund manager: he just plays one on TV.

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