One of the most anticipated books of the global financial meltdown just got a bit of public relations problem. The book, The Greatest Trade Ever, written by Wall Street Journal writer Gregory Zuckerman, due to hit bookshelves tomorrow, details the story of hedge fund operator John Paulson’s now legendary trade against the housing market and how he made billions in the process betting against subprime mortgages.
Although the book is based on extensive interviews with Paulson, Paulson is releasing a statement that disses the book, calling it a disappointment. The statement goes on:
“It contains numerous inaccuracies and fails to capture the essence of the credit bubble. The writing style is indicative of a gossip tabloid rather than respected financial journalism. Unfortunately, the opportunity to create a meaningful documentation of an important time in financial history was lost.”
Now, it is not totally surprising that the subject of a book would be disappointed. That is the nature of biography writing. But Paulson’s criticism seems to run deeper, and is even more surprising given that the book is largely laudatory to Paulson, describing how a “renegade” made financial history.
My main problem is that Paulson does not specify the “numerous inaccuracies.” If he is serious about this criticism, he should detail the instances so the writer has a chance to defend his work. Providing further details would also help readers judge whether the alleged inaccuracies are minor mistakes or major lapses in reporting or judgment.
As for the gossip tabloid style, that claim seems to be a bit overstated. I have already read the first 100 pages of the book, and if that is any indication of the tone of the rest of the story, it’s far from coming off like a tabloid, though there are a few parts where Zuckerman seems to throw in some unnecessary details about the personal problems of some characters to spice up the tale. For example, Zuckerman devotes a substantial amount of space chronicling the marital problems of one analyst who worked for Paulson, which didn’t add much to the story.
It will be interesting to see how the publisher and the author react to Paulson’s statement. They can’t be entirely happy about it.