Friends and competition
Old-man talk and gossip
In 2006 at the age of 34 I had been in hedge funds for almost a decade and
run my own firm for half that time. I was still too young to be a veteran,
but because of all the new arrivals from the industry’s explosive growth I
felt like an old-timer. I found myself making ‘old-man comments’ like ‘back
in 1999 the merger arbitrage spreads were so wide you could drive a truck
through them’ (i.e., the spread between the eventual consideration received
in a merger or takeover and the current price of a stock was very large), and
generally made remarks to the effect that all these new people coming into
the industry didn’t know what they were talking about. Excluding of course
the possibility that we didn’t either! If I had not gone to Harvard Business
School or been relatively young myself I would surely have been making
those idiotic generalised comments like, ‘People from Harvard don’t know
the first thing about the real world’ or Young managers don’t have the
experience to succeed and are there for the taking’.
Over my years roaming the London hedge-fund landscape I made a
number of close friends whom I would meet at lunches or conferences. I
generally stayed away from the ‘idea dinners’ or similar things where several
funds would collaborate since I felt they were bound to encourage every-
one to converge on the same trades. On one occasion, however, I organised
a dinner for 8–10 hedge-fund managers in central London. Although it
included investors managing double-digit billions of dollars, it was a casual
and relaxed affair. Rather than discuss trade ideas, we shared anecdotes
17

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