Hedge fund billionaires and powerful financial editors turned out Tuesday night to celebrate the release of Gregory Zuckerman’s The Greatest Trade Ever, which chronicles how John Paulson, a once-anonymous fund manager, bet against the housing bubble in 2007, winning big while nearly everyone else lost. One person, however, was noticeably absent from the night’s festivities.
“John is not happy,” Mr. Zuckerman told The Observer as he signed books for friends. “On a personal level, that hurts. But on a professional level, I guess that’s a good thing.”
Mr. Zuckerman, a senior writer at the Wall Street Journal, briefly addressed the crowd in the Regency Hotel’s Mirror Room, following an introduction by the hotel’s owner Tom Tisch.
“When I look around and see some of the top managers of money in this country, I realize I must have been too easy on you all these years,” Mr. Zuckerman said, to great laughter from the crowd. “We’re here to protect ourselves,” someone called back.
Mr. Paulson certainly doesn’t think that Mr. Zuckerman was too easy on him. This week he issued the following statement condemning the book, excerpts of which were reported by Business Week:
“It contains numerous inaccuracies and fails to capture the essence of the credit bubble. The writing style is indicative of a gossip tabloid rather than respected financial journalism. Unfortunately, the opportunity to create a meaningful documentation of an important time in financial history was lost.”
The Greatest Trade Ever emerged out of Mr. Zuckerman’s reporting on Mr. Paulson in 2007, when he received a tip that a hedge fund was turning unthinkable profits in the face of general market carnage. In 2007 alone, Paulson & Co. took in $15 billion, netting the Queens native nearly a $4 billion salary.
In the book’s acknowledgments, Mr. Zuckerman thanks his subject for the “more than fifty hours” he spent being interviewed. Nevertheless, the completed product seems to have turned Mr. Paulson sour.
“John Paulson was very generous with his time and patient about explaining a very complicated trade,” Mr. Zuckerman said later, pausing to say goodbye to his guests. “But he’s a very private man. There were a lot of things he didn’t want to speak about. I needed to have that stuff in the book anyway, so that’s where the reporting comes in. I appreciate the time he spent and the patience he had with me. But I wanted to explore the man as well as the trade.”
Mr. Paulson is in the slightly odd position of condemning a book that generally celebrates his financial genius.
“When I started thinking about this project, I knew that there would be a number of books about what went wrong, who’s to blame, and about the losers of this crisis,” Mr. Zuckerman said. “I got excited about writing about the same themes through the winners, which I invariably find more enjoyable to deal with and write about.”
It will be interesting to see who emerges the winner of this current bout. Mr. Zuckerman defended the book in today’s Post, saying it, “wasn’t intended as a hagiography, but as a portrait in full. I stand by its accuracy, as does my publisher.”
Mr. Zuckerman had passed by Border’s earlier in the day and was pleased to see his book display sandwiched between those for mega-sellers Malcolm Gladwell and Joel Osteen. Surely a little controversy can’t hurt sales.