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Hedge Hogging [Hardcover]

Barton Biggs
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
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Book Description

1 Jan 2006
Rare is the opportunity to chat with a legendary financial figure and hear the unvarnished truth about what really goes on behind the scenes. Hedgehogging represents just such an opportunity, allowing you to step inside the world of Wall Street with Barton Biggs as he discusses investing in general, hedge funds in particular, and how he has learned to find and profit from the best moneymaking opportunities in an eat–what–you–kill, cutthroat investment world.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 308 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1st edition (1 Jan 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471771910
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471771913
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 15.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 370,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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“…a real glimpse of the investing world…by telling individuals′ stories, Biggs...reveals far more about the ups and downs of hedge fund investing than the usual numbers–heavy dissertations…reveals just what a whacky world many hedgers occupy” ( Daily Telegraph , 29 December 2005) About 10 years ago, I was sitting at lunch with Morgan Stanley′s respected U.S. equity strategist Byron Wien and a number of other analysts. The bulls were running, and the media would routinely fixate on one or another rising young Wall Street strategist only to watch him burn out on a bad call or a bad year. Wall Street is notoriously a young man′s game, yet year in and year out Wien and Morgan Stanley′s global strategist Barton Biggs, both veterans in their 60s, werevoted the tops in their field. An analyst asked: "Byron, why do you suppose you and Barton seem to always be running ahead of your competitors, even though they′re 20 years or more your junior?" Wien, usually not at a loss for words, paused for a few seconds. "I think it′s because we love our jobs, and they hate theirs." In 2003, Barton Biggs went on to demonstrate the point. Long past the point of needing the money, the glory or the fame, Biggs and a couple of partners left Morgan Stanley and launched a global macro hedge fund, Traxis Partners. Being a venerated Wall Street figure did not spare Biggs the indignities of hedge–fund start–ups before him. He put on the dog and pony shows, trying to drum up capital. He suffered false promises and rejection. Hedge–fund managers′ performance is typically a closely–guarded secret –– the Securities and Exchange Commission does not allow marketing or bragging –– but I can report from inside the business that Traxis has enjoyed very favorable returns in its young life. Biggs can most certainly walk the walk. Hedgehogging, his account of his hedge fund and Wall Street years, is evidence that Biggs is still at his best when he is talking the talk. Throughout his 40–plus–year career, Biggs (whom I never had the pleasure of meeting during my four years at Morgan Stanley as a research analyst) has been an innovator on both the "buy" and "sell" side of the Street. Back in the 1970s, he managed one of the early hedge funds; he later founded Morgan Stanley′s equity–research department and then served as its global strategist, and was for a time a member of the Barron′s Roundtable. Hedgehogging offers us telling glimpses of the characters that populate the hedge–fund world, and the unremitting daily pressure of running a marked–to–market hedge fund. We read about "Richard," a successful manager who had a bad habit of touting his stocks to other managers while selling as they bought, and "Grinning Gilbert" a red–hot hedge–fund manager in the go–go 1990s, whose wife "reinvested" his earnings in a share in Netjets, an expensive Greenwich home with a 5,000–bottle wine cellar, the requisite Scottish nanny and the usual charities. When Gilbert′s fund flamed out, he became paralyzed with depression, closed the curtains and refused to leave his bed. Wife Sharon was left to tell his team of 12 that they no longer had jobs, and to liquidate the firm. Maybe I′ve been thinking about James Frey too much, but I should add that after reading more than a half dozen of these anonymous manager profiles, I did want to scream: "Who are these friggin′ people?" As it happens, it has become something of a hedge–fund parlor game to try to figure out who is whom. Personally, I suspect one character, the likeable Greg, is based on Omega Capital′s Leon Cooperman. Other hedge–fund luminaries, such as Mark Kingdon, Stanley Druckenmiller, Art Samberg, Richard Chilton and George Soros, also appear to make cameos, although the "fudge factor" in Biggs′ composite sketches may be huge. Most writers realize they can improve sales by naming names, but Biggs is a businessman first, and making enemies does nothing to help his business. Biggs is at his best when he describes the misery of a manager who suffers through bad performance. Like the game of poker, managing a hedge fund requires a high level of skill, but during any given time period, a high degree of randomness can creep into one′s performance. I know, I know: Pity the plight of the poor hedge–fund manager with his ridiculous performance fees. Over the past 25 years, I have been a reporter, a research analyst and a hedge–fund manager. While all professions have their share of pressure and pain, there is simply nothing professionally that compares with the vise–like grip that takes hold of a manager′s stomach when things are going badly. No one has done a better job of describing this visceral pain than Biggs: "Winston Churchill, whose career had its up and downs and also was plagued with bouts of depression, spoke of the huge, foul–smelling black dog with breath like the sewer, which appeared uninvited and sat heavily on his chest pinning him down," Biggs writes. "There is an investment black dog, and when you are doing badly, it comes and sits on your chest in the middle of the night, and on Saturday mornings, and on sunny spring afternoons in the office. It′s almost impossible to banish the black dog when he gets on you." Thus Biggs describes, with good–natured candor, his bad bet shorting oil –– including his sense that his friends were looking at him strangely at the country club. He even heard criticism from his own daughter. Biggs takes us to places far beyond the realm of the modern–day hedge fund, as he regales us with short snippets of Margaret Thatcher, the Internet bubble, coin collecting and the folly of investing in art. Some of his diversions, such as the fable of the man who could read tomorrow′s Wall Street Journal, seem a little forced. Others, such as his chapter on the life of Lord John Maynard Keynes, hit the mark. My grandmother was not a stock–market maven, but she did have a favorite expression: "Live forever, learn forever." While we all would like to follow the first part, only a lucky few will wind up like Biggs, with an open and fertile mind through our 70s. Therein must lie the secret of his passion and success –– even with the occasional 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 joy to read." ( Professional Investor , April 2006) "...evokes the ′agony and ecstasy′ of the frenetic and highly competitive world of hedge funds...funny and sobering" ( The Mail on Sunday , May 2006) "...a reassuring tale for ordinary mortals..." (Financial World, 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, January 2007) "highly amusing."–– Financial Times

“…a real glimpse of the investing world…by telling individuals′ stories, Biggs...reveals far more about the ups and downs of hedge fund investing than the usual numbers–heavy dissertations…reveals just what a whacky world many hedgers occupy” ( Daily Telegraph , 29 December 2005) It seems Barton Biggs, the former chief investment strategist for Morgan Stanley who has been off running a hedge fund for the past two years, is about to become the Samuel Pepys of the investing world. Biggs has been quietly writing a tell–all diary of his investing adventures that is likely to put a few noses out of joint and also – since he uses only first names and has occasionally changed even those names – will keep a lot of people guessing. Who is Richard, a man who Biggs describes "as slick and slimy as they come, although he has a smooth, cultured Harvard veneer, wears fancy suits and talks with a hint of a Boston accent"? Richard used to show up at Triangle Club dinners—New York gatherings of hedge fund managers – where he was suspected of being a sandbagger (someone who talks a stock up to fellow fund managers while quietly selling it). In case that and various anecdotes, including details of his propensity to cheat at tennis, isn′t enough to identify Richard, Biggs also reports that the man insisted on being called Richard and not Dick. Clearly a novelist manque , Biggs tells several instructive stories about how people he knows made and lost money and gives a no–holds–barred description of setting up his own fund, Traxis. There is a memorable account of Morgan Stanley′s huge annual hedge fund conference at The Breakers in Palm Beach ("Germans with bulging eurobellies from family offices mingle with bloated Arabs in pale suits . . . their handshakes as cool and clammy as snakeskin. Former investment bankers exchange lies with portly ex–diplomats, permanently deformed by self–importance". All this left poor Barton feeling "estranged and disoriented"). He drops a few investing tips along the way – among other things, that he believes the next hot and potentially crazy market will be emerging markets equities, especially Africa and the Middle East. The book, HedgeHogging , appears far more useful than the thousands of how–to–invest–and–get–rich books that pour out every year. But will Biggs ever eat lunch in this town again? ( The Financial Times , November 30, 2005) "...an intelligent book on a serious subject that is also a joy to read." ( Professional Investor , April 2006) "...evokes the ′agony and ecstasy′ of the frenetic and highly competitive world of hedge funds...funny and sobering" ( The Mail on Sunday , May 2006) "...a reassuring tale for ordinary mortals..." (Financial World, 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, January 2007)

From the Inside Flap

Hedgehogging is one of the most instructive, fascinating, and inherently entertaining investment books of this or any year. Written by legendary Wall Street investor and executive Barton Biggs, it provides an impressionistic view of ?professional investors as well as the agony and ecstasy that are endemic to this frenetic and highly competitive world. The book tells of the successes and the failures of these men and women. It unveils the moral code that they live by, and describes their different life styles and operating patterns. It also relates the adventures and travails of these incredibly intense and obsessed investment personalities, their peculiarities, and the stresses they experience. Hedgehogs are strange, insecure, but fascinating characters, preying on each other and other investors in the battle for investment survival. Biggs was an English and Creative Writing major at Yale who studied under Robert Penn Warren. His book is populated with a mixture of real identifiable people and real disguised people as well as with occasional fiction. There is no exaggeration. Everything except for one whimsical tale, which is completely fictional, actually happened. Stories of investment adventures and individual journeys, both triumphs and disasters, are related, but there are no answers, only retrospective wisdom. The book is not an investment primer nor does it tell how to start a hedge fund, although it does recount some of Biggs′s experiences in the formation of his fund. However, there are chapters that describe the way others—ranging from Count Otto von Bismarck to the Yale Endowment—have dealt with the battle for investment survival, and it provides a model of how hedge funds might be employed in a modern portfolio. Inevitably some of Biggs′s investment biases surface. Hands–on experience is an unparalleled teacher, and Barton Biggs has seen and experienced the highs and lows of Wall Street as few others have. Now, Biggs has written about the professional investment world in general and hedgehogs in particular. As engaging, blunt, and intellectually provocative as its author, Hedgehogging pulls back the curtain to provide a rare insider′s look at what actually goes on, both in Wall Street′s corner offices, at dinner meetings, and in the highly competitive, lucrative world of hedge fund management.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars market reflections 29 May 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is more a collection of personal observations about entering the hedge fund industry and anecdotes from a long career in stock broking rather than an up and down guide to the hedge fund industry. Anyone looking for the latter may be somewhat disappointed. However, Barton Biggs has been around a long time and has put together an interesting collection of market tales. To his credit he is also big enough to admit that he has called it wrong on a number of occasions - I was in Indonesia in the early 90s when he called a buy on that country, in the middle of a bear market. On one point I wold take issue with him. He glosses over the fact that most hedge funds returns, after fees, are no greater than the average mutual fund. Those that do offer superior returns are either closed end or effectively closed through high minimum investment levels.
But an entertaining book none the less.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars 28 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very good book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but not essential 17 May 2014
Is this book about hedge funds? Sorta. Will it help you to find / analyse / trade in hedge funds of the markets? No, not at all. The author is been in the industry for decades and has been involved in a few hedge fund ventures as well as working at Morgan Stanley.

I have mixed feelings on this book. It isn't terrible but it isn't great. The advice to be gleaned from this book is not hard facts but more about boosting one's soft skills in investing. That in itself is not bad but I don't think there is anything new here (for me), e.g. Ben Graham covered the psychological battles that an investor faces in the Intelligent Investor, as have many others.

The style of the book is that of a memoir, the structure is quite chaotic with no real discernible structure such as chronological nor by theme. It is messy at every level; you could even see it as fractal structure, the sentences are often as mixed up as the overall structure. That's not to say that any part is unclear. Despite what I've just said the book is easy to read in part because the level of detail is fairly simple. There is no explanation of strategies or any real in-depth analysis, but rather a loose compendium of stories.

This is a light and somewhat entertaining read but by no means essential reading. It looks like I'm the first person to review this book since 2009.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but disjointed. 27 Mar 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As someone who has an interest in finance (I have an MBA) but has never really worked directly in it, I found this an interesting read about the world of hedge funds and corporate investing. The material is interesting, and the book has solid insights about the structure of the industry, broad classes of investment strategy and motivations and personality of the people involved. I would imagine it would be very useful to anyone wanting to work in the professional investing industry or anyone employing / placing funds with such funds.
However, for me as an outsider, the book is structured as random musing and anecdotes rather than a structure documents and so any insights you garner from the book are generally formulated yourself rather than put forward in a crisp manner by the author.
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18 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How did I survive without it 17 April 2006
I have worked as a portfolio manager at a hedge fund for over 5 years. Nevertheless Barton Biggs' book Hedge Hogging taught me more about hedge funds than I had learned on the job during those 5 years. It is a true must read for anybody interested in or working in or in close contact with the hedge fund industry. Read it now!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written, but not a total loss. 28 Dec 2007
By mpgc
Biggs isn't wise and he isn't smart. Don't read this book for investment advice. That said, the book does give a decent insiders view of the Wall Street culture, with plenty of character sketches and a good description of the mental agony of investing.

Overall I was left wondering how this joker survived on the street for as long as he did. I think Emanuel Derman had it right - all the brains in banking are in fixed income rather than equities "because there's no competitive edge to being smart in the equities business".
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
I absolutely loved this book. I decided to read it because as the number of hedge funds grew significantly over the years, they became important players in the financial markets. Read more
Published on 15 Nov 2009 by Mariusz Skonieczny
3.0 out of 5 stars Another gambling psychology book.
Pretty ordinary really. Lots of similar stories about greedy folk gambling with other people's money and contributing nothing tangible to the real economy. Read more
Published on 2 Aug 2009 by D. Ferrand
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegantly-written, in-your face report on hedge funds
Hedgehoggers come in different sizes and personalities, and their results swing widely from high levels of success to abject failure. Read more
Published on 1 July 2008 by Rolf Dobelli
5.0 out of 5 stars Demystifying the Hedge Fund Industry. An Educating and Impressive...
Finally a book from a top industry's insider (Morgan Stanley has just bought into his hedge fund and the author has 30plus years of experience at this bank) on an industry that has... Read more
Published on 23 Oct 2007 by truthbetold
4.0 out of 5 stars Good value
Truely interesting piece for everyone in the financial industry and excellent value for your money. While the stories come in a bit of a random fashion, they are all interesting so... Read more
Published on 26 Nov 2006 by agis
4.0 out of 5 stars Hedgehogging by a dinosaur
"Hedgehogging" is an entertaining expose of the hedge fund world (predominantly macro investing) with fascinating insights into the emotional and intellectual turbulence of... Read more
Published on 2 Oct 2006 by A Punter
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