Man of the Meltdown
How hedge fund manager John Paulson made billions in the crisis
By Spencer E. Ante
The Good: A fascinating account of how John Paulson profited big time from the housing meltdown.
The Bad: A times the narrative seems a tad scattered and gossipy.
The Bottom Line: A dramatic and plausible account of one man’s triumph.
The Greatest Trade Ever
By Gregory Zuckerman
Broadway; 293 pp.; $26
The Great Recession of 2009 destroyed trillions in wealth. But a few lucky or shrewd souls profited from this catastrophe. Perhaps the single largest beneficiary was John Paulson, a hedge fund manager who engineered the greatest trade in history, earning his firm $20 billion by betting against the housing market. In 2007, Paulson took home a staggering $4 billion for himself, the largest one-year payout in the annals of finance. That’s more than $10 million a day, if you’re counting.
How Paulson and a handful of contrarian investors pulled off this once-in-a-lifetime coup is the subject of The Greatest Trade Ever by Gregory Zuckerman, a senior writer at the The Wall Street Journal. Paulson has released a statement calling the book a disappointment filled with inaccuracies, which he didn’t specify. But The Greatest Trade Ever comes off as a fascinating and believable counter-narrative to the growing pile of books recounting the disastrous mistakes made by many of the supposedly smartest minds on Wall Street. It is also a surprisingly dramatic work—although not always in an enjoyable way. It is the drama of waiting to see the horrific destruction scene in an apocalyptic movie.