Fortress Chieftain Mike Novogratz Wrestles with Olympians, Youth…and Wall Street

Later that night, Mr. Novogratz mounted the stage at Roseland Ballroom, his shirt unbuttoned at the neck, his tie aggressively loosened. “Bartenders, shut the bar down,” he said into the microphone.¬† “Every year we get complaints that people keep talking through the awards ceremony, so this year we’re going to shut the bar down.”

The club resembled the meeting of some secret society. A busted nose or mangled ears would make you feel at home, failing that, an awful lot of money. On the dance floor, men with bodies like upside-down anchors jangled from foot to foot, hanging meaty forearms on their compatriots’ shoulders. Cheryl Wong, a former Olympic trials qualifier who runs Beat the Streets’ girls’ program was there, along with a handful of women wrestlers, but for the most part, this was a masculine affair.

Despite Mr. Novogratz’s pleas, attendees chattered away, executing five-point throws on imaginary opponents. Eventually, Mr. Novogratz got on with his awards presentation. “I told all my friends who aren’t wrestlers that no one parties like a bunch of wrestlers,” he said. “So I hope you’ll stick around.”

As a live band took the stage and the bartenders returned to action, one could almost forget that the world economy was still in a stranglehold. Fortress shares were trading in the $3 range, down from a post-IPO high of $24.40, and Mr. Novogratz’s worth had fallen with it, down to about $500 million the last time Forbes checked.

“Our stock price has languished,” he admitted, “and I have a responsibility to my partners and shareholders to do well and get the stock price up.”

Mr. Novogratz was asked how long he intended to stay in the game. “If you were my best friend, maybe I’d tell you,” he said. “I’m going to run money for a while.”

pclark@observer.com

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