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Hedgehogging Hardcover – January 3, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (January 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471771910
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471771913
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #817,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“…a real glimpse of the investing world…bytelling individuals' stories, Biggs...reveals far more about theups and downs of hedge fund investing than the usual numbers-heavydissertations…reveals just what a whacky world many hedgersoccupy” (Daily Telegraph, 29 December 2005)

About 10 years ago, I was sitting at lunch with Morgan Stanley'srespected U.S. equity strategist Byron Wien and a number of otheranalysts. The bulls were running, and the media would routinelyfixate on one or another rising young Wall Street strategist onlyto watch him burn out on a bad call or a bad year. Wall Street isnotoriously a young man's game, yet year in and year out Wien andMorgan Stanley's global strategist Barton Biggs, both veterans intheir 60s, werevoted the tops in their field.
An analyst asked: "Byron, why do you suppose you and Barton seem toalways be running ahead of your competitors, even though they're 20years or more your junior?"
Wien, usually not at a loss for words, paused for a few seconds. "Ithink it's because we love our jobs, and they hate theirs."
In 2003, Barton Biggs went on to demonstrate the point. Long pastthe point of needing the money, the glory or the fame, Biggs and acouple of partners left Morgan Stanley and launched a global macrohedge fund, Traxis Partners.
Being a venerated Wall Street figure did not spare Biggs theindignities of hedge-fund start-ups before him. He put on the dogand pony shows, trying to drum up capital. He suffered falsepromises and rejection. Hedge-fund managers' performance istypically a closely-guarded secret -- the Securities and ExchangeCommission does not allow marketing or bragging -- but I can reportfrom inside the business that Traxis has enjoyed very favorablereturns in its young life. Biggs can most certainly walk thewalk.
Hedgehogging, his account of his hedge fund and Wall Street years,is evidence that Biggs is still at his best when he is talking thetalk.
Throughout his 40-plus-year career, Biggs (whom I never had thepleasure of meeting during my four years at Morgan Stanley as aresearch analyst) has been an innovator on both the "buy" and"sell" side of the Street. Back in the 1970s, he managed one of theearly hedge funds; he later founded Morgan Stanley'sequity-research department and then served as its globalstrategist, and was for a time a member of the Barron'sRoundtable.
Hedgehogging offers us telling glimpses of the characters thatpopulate the hedge-fund world, and the unremitting daily pressureof running a marked-to-market hedge fund.
We read about "Richard," a successful manager who had a bad habitof touting his stocks to other managers while selling as theybought, and "Grinning Gilbert" a red-hot hedge-fund manager in thego-go 1990s, whose wife "reinvested" his earnings in a share inNetjets, an expensive Greenwich home with a 5,000-bottle winecellar, the requisite Scottish nanny and the usual charities. WhenGilbert's fund flamed out, he became paralyzed with depression,closed the curtains and refused to leave his bed. Wife Sharon wasleft to tell his team of 12 that they no longer had jobs, and toliquidate the firm.
Maybe I've been thinking about James Frey too much, but I shouldadd that after reading more than a half dozen of these anonymousmanager profiles, I did want to scream: "Who are these friggin'people?" As it happens, it has become something of a hedge-fundparlor game to try to figure out who is whom. Personally, I suspectone character, the likeable Greg, is based on Omega Capital's LeonCooperman. Other hedge-fund luminaries, such as Mark Kingdon,Stanley Druckenmiller, Art Samberg, Richard Chilton and GeorgeSoros, also appear to make cameos, although the "fudge factor" inBiggs' composite sketches may be huge. Most writers realize theycan improve sales by naming names, but Biggs is a businessmanfirst, and making enemies does nothing to help his business.
Biggs is at his best when he describes the misery of a manager whosuffers through bad performance. Like the game of poker, managing ahedge fund requires a high level of skill, but during any giventime period, a high degree of randomness can creep into one'sperformance.
I know, I know: Pity the plight of the poor hedge-fund manager withhis ridiculous performance fees. Over the past 25 years, I havebeen a reporter, a research analyst and a hedge-fund manager. Whileall professions have their share of pressure and pain, there issimply nothing professionally that compares with the vise-like gripthat takes hold of a manager's stomach when things are going badly.No one has done a better job of describing this visceral pain thanBiggs:
"Winston Churchill, whose career had its up and downs and also wasplagued with bouts of depression, spoke of the huge, foul-smellingblack dog with breath like the sewer, which appeared uninvited andsat heavily on his chest pinning him down," Biggs writes. "There isan investment black dog, and when you are doing badly, it comes andsits on your chest in the middle of the night, and on Saturdaymornings, and on sunny spring afternoons in the office. It's almostimpossible to banish the black dog when he gets on you."
Thus Biggs describes, with good-natured candor, his bad betshorting oil -- including his sense that his friends were lookingat him strangely at the country club. He even heard criticism fromhis own daughter.
Biggs takes us to places far beyond the realm of the modern-dayhedge fund, as he regales us with short snippets of MargaretThatcher, the Internet bubble, coin collecting and the folly ofinvesting in art. Some of his diversions, such as the fable of theman who could read tomorrow's Wall Street Journal, seem a littleforced. Others, such as his chapter on the life of Lord JohnMaynard Keynes, hit the mark.
My grandmother was not a stock-market maven, but she did have afavorite expression: "Live forever, learn forever." While we allwould like to follow the first part, only a lucky few will wind uplike Biggs, with an open and fertile mind through our 70s. Thereinmust lie the secret of his passion and success -- even with theoccasional foul-smelling black dog, and oil bets gone awry.
—Reviewed By Neil Barsky (Barron's, February 4-10,2006)

"...an intelligent book on a serious subject that is also a joyto read." (Professional Investor, April 2006)

"...evokes the 'agony and ecstasy' of the frenetic and highlycompetitive world of hedge funds...funny and sobering" ( TheMail on Sunday, May 2006)

"...a reassuring tale for ordinary mortals..." (FinancialWorld, May 2006)

"...legendary..." (Futures Magazine Group, July 2006)

"…is punchy, entertaining and insightful." (Money Week,December 2006)

"…a real page turner… an extremely well written,funny and fascinating book…" ( The Technical Analyst, January2007)

"highly amusing."--Financial Times

From the Inside Flap

Hedgehogging is one of the most instructive, fascinating, andinherently entertaining investment books of this or any year.Written by legendary Wall Street investor and executive BartonBiggs, it provides an impressionistic view of ?professionalinvestors as well as the agony and ecstasy that are endemic to thisfrenetic and highly competitive world.

The book tells of the successes and the failures of these menand women. It unveils the moral code that they live by, anddescribes their different life styles and operating patterns. Italso relates the adventures and travails of these incrediblyintense and obsessed investment personalities, their peculiarities,and the stresses they experience. Hedgehogs are strange, insecure,but fascinating characters, preying on each other and otherinvestors in the battle for investment survival.

Biggs was an English and Creative Writing major at Yale whostudied under Robert Penn Warren. His book is populated with amixture of real identifiable people and real disguised people aswell as with occasional fiction. There is no exaggeration.Everything except for one whimsical tale, which is completelyfictional, actually happened. Stories of investment adventures andindividual journeys, both triumphs and disasters, are related, butthere are no answers, only retrospective wisdom.

The book is not an investment primer nor does it tell how tostart a hedge fund, although it does recount some of Biggs'sexperiences in the formation of his fund. However, there arechapters that describe the way others—ranging from Count Ottovon Bismarck to the Yale Endowment—have dealt with the battlefor investment survival, and it provides a model of how hedge fundsmight be employed in a modern portfolio. Inevitably some of Biggs'sinvestment biases surface.

Hands-on experience is an unparalleled teacher, and Barton Biggshas seen and experienced the highs and lows of Wall Street as fewothers have. Now, Biggs has written about the professionalinvestment world in general and hedgehogs in particular. Asengaging, blunt, and intellectually provocative as its author,Hedgehogging pulls back the curtain to provide a rare insider'slook at what actually goes on, both in Wall Street's corneroffices, at dinner meetings, and in the highly competitive,lucrative world of hedge fund management.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

144 of 161 people found the following review helpful By Michael A. Kelly on January 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I previously worked in the hedge-fund industry and now teach college students about finance. Therefore, I found Barton Biggs' anecdotes both instructive and amusing, having seen some of the poor lifestyle choices that some hedge fund managers ("hedgehogs", according to Byron) make.

However, the book's strength is not an "inside look" into the world of hedgehogs, but a series of instructive vignettes about how to be an "investor". According to Biggs, a true investor sees one step ahead, while the rest of us are responding to the "now".

The true investor pays a high price for this insight. A true investor makes mistakes, is inevitably early, has doubts, lives in a lonely world, and is abandoned at precisely the wrong time by his most loyal investors. Sleepless nights, grinding teeth, and poor digestion are just part of the price paid. (I certainly can attest to this, though I would never claim to be a true investor. I guess that I am just a "journeyman".)

The goal of people with money to invest is to find these true investors, give them their money, watch them closely, and stick with them through thick and thin. One must constantly watch, though, for the weaknesses that often come with success.

In the first half of the book, Byron provides many instructive stories, centered on his town of Greenwich, of successful hedgehogs who let their money determine their lifestyles. Inevitably, pride comes before the fall, destroying both lifestyles and businesses.

I strongly recommend this book, not as an investment guide, but as an "investor guide" -- a guide on how to be a successful investor or how to find successful investors to work for you. This book fills an critical hole in my library.
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67 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Richad of Connecticut VINE VOICE on February 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you own stocks, love stocks, must have stocks, than this is the book for you. Barton Biggs has spent his entire life in the markets and has influenced some of the biggest names in the business. He's forgotten more than most of the premiere hedge fund managers operating today will ever know. I know because I know this business.

Having spent 35 years in the industry, and I still love it every day, I have nothing but respect and admiration for this man who spent most of his career at Morgan Stanley. He was actually the lead man in putting together the Morgan Stanley research department. This is a major feat by itself. By whatever matrix you want to compare this man, you will find him on every winner's list.

I have run into him at several conferences, and I have never failed to be impressed by his massive intellect, which can focus like a laser on individual stocks, sectors, commodities or equities, and a whole array of economic issues.

He is a first rate thinker, and a first rate analyst. He's just basically smarter than his peers, and he has decades of experience to couple that brainpower with. In this book you have the opportunity to take in about 300 pages of pure wisdom. How else are you going to be able to do this, and from who?

Every couple of years I try to retool. It helps me remain humble. This can be done in a number of ways. You can take a stack of books like this one, tuck them under your arm and get away to a retreat or a beach somewhere, and just start taking in the knowledge, and try to integrate it.

Back at the height of the Internet Boom when I couldn't understand the valuations being given to hundreds of companies with no earnings, I decided to retool. It wasn't that I just couldn't understand the lack of earnings.
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45 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Bueno on April 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a mess. Every ten pages or so, Biggs introduces some (apparently quasi-fictionalized) anecdote about a hedge fund manager (e.g., "last week I had lunch with Stan, who for twenty years ran big money at Morgan Stanley but now manages his own fund . . ." or "a few days ago I had dinner with George, one of the true hedge-fund immortals"). Approximately one half of the book is devoted to these anecdotal portraits of allegedly wildly successful hedge fund types whose true names Biggs has thoughtfully withheld for their protection and ours. Practically none of these anecdotes convey any kind of specific information about the hedge fund business or about the actual mechanics of hedging transactions. The pay-off of each anecdote is something like "it is very stressful to run a hedge fund" or "it can be very depressing when one's portfolio underperforms the indices" or "the markets can be irrational in the short-term." These kinds of passages are interspersed with a lot of random material - for example, some bizarre and pointless fiction, apparently recycled from something Biggs wrote in 1971, about a trader named Jud buying copies of the Wall Street Journal that magically predict stock price movements a day early, as well as a chapter paraphrasing Robert Skidelsky's biography of Keynes (Biggs claims that the chapter on Keynes "is based on a number of sources besides Skidelsky's epic" but characteristically identifies none of these sources, either in the text itself or in the recommended reading section).

Many of the other reviews focus on how "well-written" the book is.
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More About the Author

Barton Biggs spent thirty years at Morgan Stanley. In that time, he formed the firm's number-one-ranked research department, built up its investment management business, and served as chairman of the investment management firm. At various times during this period, he was ranked as the number one U.S. investment strategist by the Institutional Investor magazine poll and then, from 1996 to 2003, as the number one global strategist. He was also a member of the five-man executive committee that ran the firm until its merger with Dean Witter in 1996. In 2003, Biggs left Morgan Stanley and, with two other colleagues, formed Traxis Partners. Traxis now has well over a billion dollars under its management. Biggs' latest book, Wealth, War, and Wisdom, is also published by Wiley.