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The Greatest Trade Ever: The Behind-The-Scenes Story of How John Paulson Defied Wall Street and Made Financial History [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Gregory Zuckerman , Marc Cashman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Nov 2009
In 2006, hedge fund manager John Paulson realized something few others suspected--that the housing market and the value of subprime mortgages were grossly inflated and headed for a major fall.  Paulson's background was in mergers and acquisitions, however, and he knew little about real estate or how to wager against housing.  He had spent a career as an also-ran on Wall Street. But Paulson was convinced this was his chance to make his mark. He just wasn't sure how to do it.  Colleagues at investment banks scoffed at him and investors dismissed him.  Even pros skeptical about housing shied away from the complicated derivative investments that Paulson was just learning about.  But Paulson and a handful of renegade investors such as Jeffrey Greene and Michael Burry began to bet heavily against risky mortgages and precarious financial companies. Timing is everything, though. Initially, Paulson and the others lost tens of millions of dollars as real estate and stocks continued to soar. Rather than back down, however, Paulson redoubled his bets, putting his hedge fund and his reputation on the line.
     In the summer of 2007, the markets began to implode, bringing Paulson early profits, but also sparking efforts to rescue real estate and derail him. By year's end, though, John Paulson had pulled off the greatest trade in financial history, earning more than $15 billion for his firm--a figure that dwarfed George Soros's billion-dollar currency trade in 1992.  Paulson made billions more in 2008 by transforming his gutsy move.  Some of the underdog investors who attempted the daring trade also reaped fortunes. But others who got the timing wrong met devastating failure, discovering that being early and right wasn't nearly enough.
     Written by the prizewinning reporter who broke the story in The Wall Street Journal, The Greatest Trade Ever is a superbly written, fast-paced, behind-the-scenes narrative of how a contrarian foresaw an escalating financial crisis--that outwitted Chuck Prince, Stanley O'Neal, Richard Fuld, and Wall Street's titans--to make financial history.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (3 Nov 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307713318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307713315
  • Product Dimensions: 2.9 x 12.7 x 15.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,686,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Simply terrific. Easily the best of the post-crash financial books (Malcolm Gladwell)

Greg Zuckerman was the first to tell the world about John Paulson's sensational trade . . . He's written the definitive account of a strange and wonderful subplot of the financial crisis (Michael Lewis, author of Liar's Poker)

A must-read for anyone fascinated by financial madness (Mail on Sunday)

A forensic, read-in-one-sitting book (Sunday Times)

Extraordinary, excellent (Observer)

Compelling (Economist)

Zuckerman takes us to Wall Street's heart of darkness, where mushroomed a $1 trillion subprime mortgage market that only the few, the brave, the smart dared short. This is at once a great page-turner and a great illuminator of the market's crash. (John Heylar, co-author of Barbarians at the Gate)

Much, much more than a brilliant account of Paulson's trade of the century; this book also provides a highly enjoyable and lucid journey through the analytical and emotional maze that constituted the financial markets on the eve of the Great Recession. Compulsory reading. (Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of Pacific Investment Management Co and author of When Markets Collide)

A magnificent insider look at how Paulson and others profited off of subprime's demise... insightful and gripping. ( --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Gregory Zuckerman is a senior writer at the Wall Street Journal, where he pens the 'Heard on the Street' column. He appears on CNBC-TV twice a week to explain complex trades. His team has won the New York Press Club Journalism Award and the Gerald Loeb Award for their coverage of the credit crisis. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Paulson Trade 23 Nov 2009
This well written book recounts how John Paulson and other like-minded contrarian traders & investors were able to pull off their version of the (in-)famous 'Soros Trade' -- except, instead of breaking the British Pound, Paulson et al. made their bones betting against a crumbling financial system using CDSs (credit default swaps) [basically, a derivative instrument that either allows you to insure against credit risk or make a pure bet against the credit-worthiness of companies, mortgages, cash flows, etc.]. In 2007, Paulson's hedge fund made $15 Billion (John Paulson's take home pay was $4 Billion -- the largest one year payout to an individual in financial history). Paulson made Soros' legendary trade look pedestrian! In fact, as the book recounts, George Soros actually invited John Paulson to give him a tutorial on trading with CDSs!

In years to come, I can safely predict that financial traders wanting to make a big score with a particularly grand bet will refer to it as a Paulson Trade rather than a Soros Trade. What John Paulson and others did was not easy to execute -- although, as the book makes clear, the concept is fairly straightforward (the credit market bubble was being inflated with toxic sludge) -- and I appreciate the fact that the book makes many of the missteps, hurdles, and shady practices of brokers/banks clear.

I'm glad I got this book asap (getting the US version ahead of the UK edition). It was well worth the extra effort. An enjoyable, entertaining, and potentially profitable read. At the very least, the reader can come away with a better understanding of how our easy credit economy fell apart to near depressionary levels.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
If you only read one book about the credit crunch, don't make it this one. The author has an irritatingly breathless, tabloidy tone and doesn't understand the material well enough to judge what was truly impressive about Paulson's trade. Working out that the US housing market was set for a fall, did not a genius make...

The Lewis, Lanchester and Lowenstein books are all massively superior. Buy them instead.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating read 3 Feb 2012
By A Race
Format:Kindle Edition
This was a captivating read that have me enthralled from beginning to end.

It is greatly beneficial if you take time to understand the financial instruments that these guys were dealing with, but the book gives ample explanation all the same.

I loved this book and was quite saddened to finish it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars truly brilliant book... 12 Sep 2011
By Gcrikey
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
how did anyone make money in the global recession of 2008 - onwards... when the banks almost destroyed the world?

this book explains how, but doesn't bore you with algebra. i like this book because it tells you the thought process behind those who foresaw the economic disaster. really ineteresting read...
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, Infuriating, Flat. 29 April 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I finished this book as Robert Rubin was being grilled by a Senate committee about the financial meltdown. It struck me that the book described just the first act in something fundamental which is happening to the West's financial future.
Zuckerman, a Wall Street Journal reporter, describes the decline of the US property market from the point of view of the (few) winners; those who say it coming and figured out how to profit from the looming disaster. The winners it seems were quite few - John Paulson, a formerly obscure hedge fund manager, Jeffery Green a property speculator and Mike Burry, a fund manager based far from the New York financial scene. They all discovered that the newly developed CDS formed a deliciously asymmetric bet on the housing market - i.e. for a regular sequence of insurance -like payments, at cents in the dollar relative to the assets covered(CDOs), they stood to make vast profits if the unthinkable happened i.e. the US property market declined. It did, but when it did the financial destruction was so great that there was always the possibility that they would not get their money as potentially their counterparties would be bankrupted.
That's where the Western tax payers come in, some of the counterparties were banks and as the banks tottered US and other taxpayers stepped in to prevent them failing, i.e. taxpayers money went to pay off the CDO/CDS transactions. I reckon that at least 1billion of John Paulson's funds 12 billion profit came from the German governments rescue of IKB bank (this last is not in the book).

So the fascination is in watching this unfold. The events are so recent that we still have a sense of the breath-taking audacity of those that felt the property market could crash.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great read 21 May 2014
By Ricky
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is enjoyable, doesn't go too deep into the technicals which is a plus I think. I'm in the trade so can't say too much for fear of offending clients.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and enjoyable read 28 April 2014
By ed
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Like the title says, an interesting read about profiting from the financial collapse. Well written and easy to understand. Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars most interesting 22 Jan 2014
By Joe
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A really intricate subject simplified, A difficult subject to develop tension particularly when everyone knows the outcome,
Well done I shall look at the Frackers with interest.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Read
Would recommend this book to anyone with an interest of financial markets. Chronicling what was the greatest trade ever and a wonderful insight into the dangers and instability of... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Sam Gman
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
I wholeheartedly endorse this book for its fascinating detail and interesting story. A great investment in knowledge and a few days well spent reading it!
Published 14 months ago by Natasha
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Trade Ever.
This was a Christmas Present for a friend and he was very pleased indeed when he realised what it was about.
Published 18 months ago by Lexmar
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential book about trading
This is the sort of book that should be impossible to write because of getting the intimate access required to the main players. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Tom Rubython
4.0 out of 5 stars CDS trades
A great history of ABCDS and the mortgage backed securities which allowed hedge funds to bet that the property bubble will burst.
Published on 25 July 2012 by THe marvasti man
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, accessible light reading
I wanted some light reading as I traveled and Zuckerman's account of how John Paulson bet against the US housing market seemed as good a read as any. Read more
Published on 25 Mar 2012 by Mr. G. Carroll
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
Solid reading, other books out there that pierce deeper into the intricacies of the financial instruments used in this overwhelming trade. Easy to read, finishable in one sitting.
Published on 2 Feb 2012 by Hitchslap101
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
Gives an excellent insight into a spectacular short, and is written in a flowing and very enjoyable manner. Quite a page turner.
Published on 13 Jan 2012 by Derek Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, but could be told better
The Greatest Trade on Earth succeeds, like Andrew Ross Sorkin's tome "Too Big to Fail" in making a difficult and complex subject relatively accessible by writing it in the format... Read more
Published on 1 Oct 2011 by Pete Farmer
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