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When Genius Failed
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About the Author

Roger Lowenstein has reported for the Wall Street Journal for more than a decade and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times and The New Republic. He is the author of Buffet: the Making of an American Capitalist.

Reviews

This is a marvelous, unauthorized chronicle of the rise, fall, and re-emergence of Long-Term Capital Management, a private hedge fund that in September 1998 benefited from a Federal Reserve-orchestrated $3.6 billion bailout. Based primarily on interviews with key players from the six banks that participated in the rescue of the firm, Lowenstein, who previously wrote Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist, presents a well-crafted, easy-to-follow text. Readers will better appreciate the inner workings of the firm; the nuances of the individual partners; primary differences among investing in stocks, bonds, and derivatives; the fallacy of the efficient market hypothesis; the impact of computers on financial trading; and the importance of moderation. Recommended for both academic and public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/00.]DNorman B. Hutcherson, Kern Cty. Lib., Bakersfield, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

'A must-read thriller for anyone who works, or invests in markets. It is a story of how arrogance can drive greed and fear to extremes.' Scotsman 'Richly textured and lucidA riveting account that reaches beyond the market landscape to say something universal about risk and triumph, about hubris and failure.' New York Times 'Lowenstein has written a squalid and fascinating tale of world-class greed and, above all, hubris.' Business Week 'This book is story-telling journalism at its best' The Economist

In late September 1998, the New York Federal Reserve Bank invited a number of major Wall Street investment banks to enter a consortium to fund the multibillion-dollar bailout of a troubled hedge fund. No sooner was the $3.6-billion plan announced than questions arose about why usually independent banks would band together to save a single privately held fund. The short answer is that the banks feared that the fund's collapse could destabilize the entire stock market. The long answer, which Lowenstein (Buffett) provides in undigested detail, may panic those who shudder at the thought of bouncing a $200 check. Long-Term Capital Management opened for business in February 1994 with $1.25 billion in funds. Armed with the cachet of its founders' stellar credentials (Robert Merton and Myron Scholes, 1997 Nobel Prize laureates in economics, were among the partners), it quickly parlayed expertise at reading computer models of financial markets and seemingly limitless access to financing into stunning results. By the end of 1995, it had tripled its equity capital and total assets had grown to $102 billion. Lowenstein argues that this kind of success served to enhance the fund's golden legend and sent the partners' self-confidence off the charts. As he itemizes the complex mix of investments and heavy borrowing that made 1994-1997 profitable years, Lowenstein also charts the subtle drift toward riskier (and ultimately disastrous) ventures as the fund's traditional profit centers dried up. What should have been a gripping story, however, has been poorly handled by Lowenstein, who obscures his narrative with masses of data and overwritten prose. Agent, Melanie Jackson. Author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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