The Shorter Tom Wolfe on Hedge Funds

Okay, this is the last item from Portfolio magazine. I promise. But, if for no other reason than to say you did, you need to read Tom Wolfe’s mega-entry on the hedge fund manager subculture.

The Wolfe piece — and there’s literally no getting around this — is really, really long, 7,501 words, to be precise. If nothing else, that makes it longer than any Forbes/Fortune/BusinessWeek piece in recent memory, which has to be worth something.

Given Wolfe’s fondness for euphonious onomatopoeia, the article will delight Wolfe fans by starting, “Not bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, but bama bampa barama …” etc. But in a kind of modernist irony, the initial upload of the piece to the Portfolio site starts with an accidentally unclosed meta tag, creating “\>Not bam, bam, bam…” etc., which adds a certain web-age frisson to the frothy concoction.

Anyway, is the Wolfe piece any good? If you’re looking for insights into trading strategies of the most storied hedge fund managers, run away. There is none of that here. If, however, the idea of reading about hedge funds through the prism of status and culture turns you on, then Tom’s your man. He wanders about, doing the sort of subtle observation stuff he does best, and generally get an angle on these jeans-wearing sorts that you don’t see elsewhere.

Mind you, a little goes a long way. If I never read another lifestyles article about hedge fund managers again, I’d be fine with that. So, let’s not make this sort of Wolfe-ian thing a regular feature, okay Joanne?

You knew I was going to do this, so here you are, your moment of Microsoft Word auto-summarize Zen. Tom Wolfe on hedge fund managers in six sentences:

… hedge fund managers are possessed by a previously unheard-of status fixation. Virtually every hedge fund manager has it, but many hedge fund managers are perfect gentlemen, so well do they restrain the fixation. Paul Tudor Jones II cries out. Some huge funds operate with fewer than 20 people.

Barton Biggs, a hedge fund manager himself, writes in his book Hedgehogging that hedge fund managers tend to be screamers. We will build our own clubs! Daniel Loeb … club man at last!

That almost turns into a moving kind of haiku.


  1. “7,501 words… has to be worth something.”
    Yes, it has to be worth avoiding.