The six nervous men in suit jackets huddled in the rain and waiting to enter a south London radio station get a last bit of advice from Dr. Stu, the host of The Naked Short Club.
“Oh, and don’t turn off your cell phones -- it adds a certain ambience,” said Dr. Stu, just before the 42nd broadcast of his hourlong show on Resonance 104.4 FM. Listeners get hedge-fund developments, gossip and gags in between poetry and B-side tracks from psychedelic rock bands such as Gong, the Orb and the Stooges, which the host says was the band’s name “before Iggy Pop got famous.”
Dr. Stu, who says he works for a hedge fund in London, declines to identify himself to add mystery to broadcasts -- most Monday evenings at 9 p.m. London time at 104.4 FM in central London or worldwide via http://www.resonancefm.com.
There are many jokes aimed at Bernard Madoff, who is serving a 150-year sentence for orchestrating history’s biggest Ponzi scheme. The show’s preferred imagined location lately has been the “Hotel Grand Madhoff” in Berlin, where the “Ponzi Biers” flow like water.
Dr. Stu sets up a mock pursuit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who banned some short-selling on sovereign debt and blames hedge funds for Europe’s credit woes.
“Merkel’s said to be scared of dogs, but hedgies are locusts and we want to eat her leaves, strip her bare,” Dr. Stu said as he kicked off the show, adding that the Hedge Fund Emergency Helpline will remain closed until the short-selling ban is lifted.
The Naked Short Club does have its serious moments. Three managers of quantitative hedge funds on the June 7 show said what their funds did and didn’t do on May 6, when U.S. stocks plunged, temporarily erasing more than $1 trillion in market value. The May 24 show delved into the intricacies of hedge-fund firms starting Ucits funds, European mutual funds known under the acronym Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities.
In addition to a rule against guests marketing their funds or firms, Dr. Stu enforces a strict “don’t dumb down, don’t explain” policy so that the discussion doesn’t get bogged down.
“It’s in English, but I don’t understand what the words mean,” French rocker and poet Anne Pigalle said after the May 24 show. B.H. Fraser, a regular contributor of poems known as the City Poet, frequently reads works such as “The Mask of the Giant Vampire Squid,” a reference to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and peppers his work with investment-banking and investing jargon.
Dr. Stu revels in keeping some of the discussion out of the grasp of all listeners. A recent guest explained her view of hedge-fund strategy in her native Armenian, without translation.
“As a layman, the discussions become an ambient psychedelic jive, it’s clearly abstracted from what we normally think of as reality,” said Ed Baxter, program manager for Resonance. Baxter said he was sold on the show because “just a show about a hedge funds, or about progressive rock, would be boring, it’s the juxtaposition.”
Still, Dr. Stu, in a pre-performance prep talk at a Costa coffee shop next to Resonance’s studio south of London Bridge, cautions the hedge-fund managers to choose their words carefully.
“The audience is usually half asleep but there’s always the danger that a CAIA student listening thinks they might learn something,” Dr. Stu says of applicants to become Chartered Alternative Investment Analysts. Dr. Stu peppers his program with “health warnings” about hedge funds and investing in general.
Dr. Stu, who says he hosted “primal scream therapy” radio shows while a university student, flirted with a career as a radio broadcaster in Birmingham, England, before veering into finance. He describes the show as “an exercise at performance art combined with a serious treatment of a business that sometimes takes itself too seriously.”
So far, he’s managed to attract many top hedge-fund managers and investors, and thousands of listeners to the live broadcast with more listening via podcasts.
Baxter, the program manager, said the show appeals partly because hedge funds are vilified by so many politicians and in the popular press.
“They’re as misunderstood as Somalian refugees,” said Baxter, whose programming list includes recordings made beneath the Heathrow flight path after the Icelandic volcano’s eruption and a weekly digest of Iranian arts and culture. “As long as they’re hated we’re happy to offer them refuge.”