With the stock markets down, Europeans rioting in the streets, and worried investors all but stuffing cash inside their mattresses, it was unsurprising that the mood at the annual Ira Sohn conference at the Time Warner Center in May, at which Wall Street’s moneymen of the moment share their investment outlooks to benefit a pediatric cancer fund, was about as cheerful as the annual Prophecy Conference in Tulsa.
“The rebound has been synthetic, fabricated by governments that can’t afford it,” droned one presenter, whose speech was accompanied by a PowerPoint image of New York City sliding over a waterfall. He then warned the audience members, who were mostly wearing dark suits and funereal expressions, to expect the course ahead to be “wrenching and unpredictable.”
At least the premillennialists have Jesus. In midtown in the spring of 2010, all anyone in the hedge-fund world seemed to believe in was gold.
Then, late in the afternoon, David Tepper, a hedge-fund manager out of New Jersey, bounded up onstage and ripped off his tie, as though the lack of air in the room had become physically constraining. “I got a little story for you,” he said into the microphone, and proceeded to read it from a crumpled piece of paper in his hand.
“In 1898, the first international urban-planning conference convened in New York,” he said. “It was abandoned after three days because none of the delegates could see any solution to the growing crisis caused by urban horses and their output. In the Times of London, one reporter estimated that in 50 years, every street in London would be buried under nine feet of manure.”
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