Finance

Michael P. Regan is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering equities and financial services. He has covered stocks for Bloomberg News as a columnist and editor since 2007. He previously worked for the Associated Press.

There's one area where big-time money managers have been noticeably outperforming recently -- making it into the news in the most unusual ways.   

Let's start with Apollo Management co-founder Josh Harris. He has a habit of collecting sports teams, such as the New Jersey Devils of the NHL and the Philadelphia 76ers of the local YMCA league NBA. Helicopters ferrying Harris to and from the Devils' arena in Newark sometimes land on a soccer field nearby, according to Deadspin

This week, one such landing took place before a youth soccer game, forcing the match to be canceled. It's tempting to admonish Harris over this, but really he taught these kids a valuable lesson. These boys are 12 and 13 years old, for Pele's sake. Time to stop playing with balls, especially the type that has never made a single American filthy rich. Start focusing on your P&L, kiddies, and maybe one day you, too, can land a chopper wherever you want.

There was the danger of some real trauma, however, if those kids had realized immediately who the helicopter was for. Harris's 76ers were 18-64 last season and are off to an 0-8 start so far this year. So there could've been a real panic that he was there to buy one of those soccer teams. So Josh, put that chopper to better use next time: hover over some playground courts and find a few recruits so those poor 76ers fans can regain some dignity.

To his credit, Harris did apologize and promised not to interfere with a game again. He also invited the teams and their families to be his guests at a Devils game. It never hurts to fill a few extra seats, and the Devils' arena has enough for a few hundred soccer teams. 

Elsewhere, everyone's favorite silver fox in the hedge house, Bill Ackman, was also back in the news. The Pershing Square chieftain apparently was feeling peeved at Berkshire Hathaway's Charlie Munger for calling Ackman albatross Valeant Pharmaceuticals immoral because of the company's habit of jacking up the prices of its drugs. Ackman shot back that one of Berkshire's longtime investments, Coca-Cola, was immoral for giving the world a Coke belly.

Now, picking a fight with the beloved 91-year-old Munger is bound to win you about as many friends as having your chopper chaffeur-land before a youth soccer game, especially when it's at an event honoring Munger's even more-beloved boss, Warren Buffett, at the Museum of American Finance. (There must be some great exhibits at that museum. Docent: "On your right is the skeleton of Ben Graham, and then let's get on the elevator because you'll want to see floors 4 through 25, which are filled with the goodwill from the AOL-Time Warner merger. It's like a 22-floor steam room, so you might want to check your coats.")

Anyway, Ackman does make an excellent point here, so let the billionaire without a sin stock on the books cast the first stone. And Munger shouldn't be exempt from revenge smack talk just because he's almost a century old. As far as we're concerned, the rules of engagement in billionaire feuds should dictate that once your hair is white, you're all on a level battlefield.

This plot thickened, however, with a juicy tidbit in the Wall Street Journal about how Ackman wolfed down two Oreos when his staff presented him with a bunch of Mondelez products as part of the due diligence in deciding whether to invest in the company.

"Everything in moderation," Ackman said, according to the paper. That's a great piece of advice, Bill, and one your investors probably wish you had heeded before bingeing on Valeant shares.    

So this was a nice effort by Harris and Ackman to snatch the alpha when it comes to fund-manager headlines. But there's an even more intriguing storyline involving Steven Cohen, and it wins the head of SAC Capital Partners Point72 Asset Management the coveted Trade of the Week award.

Chinese Inflation
Steven Cohen's portrait of Mao Zedong sold for nearly 50 times its last auction price
Source: Bloomberg

Cohen unloaded an Andy Warhol portrait of Mao Zedong for a cool $47.5 million at a Sotheby's auction, as Bloomberg's Katya Kazakina reports. That's in the neighborhood of 50 times its last auction price 19 years ago. Cohen bought it in 2007, and it's unclear how much he paid. 

It would be tempting to speculate that someone in Cohen's employ got a hot tip that China was about to double its margin requirements to combat stock-market froth and that the time was ripe to unload anything related to the communist nation.

But Cohen is running a nice family office now, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.  

Still, you got to hand it to Cohen: scoring part of a 50-bagger on this painting proves that all is fair in love and Warhol. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

  1. Disclaimer: The author of this column is, sadly, part of that sad demographic.

To contact the author of this story:
Michael P. Regan in New York at mregan12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Daniel Niemi at dniemi1@bloomberg.net