Friday, October 19, 2007

The Wolf of Wall Street

I’ve never been enamored by greed. Nor have I ever felt that the role of business was particularly about making money and creating wealth. For me, thanks to my socialist upbringing, it’s always been about trying to create jobs, self esteem, fulfillment, being the best you can and making the world a better place for everyone. Given this, I’ve always had a pretty sour view of merchant bankers, investment bankers, private equity players and stock brokers. As a result I didn’t engage much with the people I met during the Michael Milken/Ivan Boesky driven 80’s. Having said that, I was riveted by Michael Douglas in Wall Street, the Michael Lewis book Liar’s Poker, Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities, and Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City.

Living in Tribeca, which is close to the Financial District in New York, I bump into more than my fair share of cocky, narcissistic masters of the universe, all of whom I give the widest possible berth. Over the past two years they’ve come back with a vengeance and just about the only positive I can see coming out of it is that they are driving the value of my Tribeca apartment up and up.

Because I’ve never really been part of that life, a book that’s just come out in the U.S. was a revelation to me. It’s called The Wolf of Wall Street and is by Jordan Belfort who tells the true story of a 25 year old who turned his brokerage into a multi million dollar machine. In that time he broke every securities law possible, screwed innocent shareholders by the score, was a multi millionaire at 26 and a federal convict at 36. It’s a book that you just can’t put down and is brilliantly written. Talk about tales of excess. It’s certain to be made into a movie and I can’t believe they would go any further than Leonardo DiCaprio to play Belfort, the founder of Stratton Oakmont. This is a book that describes the greed, power and excess of the raging U.S. bull market. It reaffirms everything I’ve always felt about these bloodsucking piranhas.