Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Death of a Midlevel Financier

Death of a Midlevel Financier

I’m not a regular reader of the Style Section of The New York Times.[1]  However, when a hedge fund manager is shot by his son, it’s a story that draws my attention.  Apparently the son, Tommy Gilbert, had exhibited disturbing behavior for some time before going to his parents’ apartment and shooting his father.  Allegedly the younger Gilbert, 30, was upset that his father had cut his monthly allowance from $700 to $600 per week.  After reading various accounts of this story, it’s clear that this is a story about mental health and personal tragedy.  However, the media covered the tragedy is if it was about about wealth and money management.

To give you a flavor of the media coverage, here is how the Times described the elder Mr. Gilbert:

The senior Mr. Gilbert, who was 70, was a midlevel financier working punishing hours to get his small hedge fund off the ground. Gregarious and gentlemanly, he was a longtime member of the Maidstone Club in East Hampton and the River Club in Manhattan and, by all accounts, had a smile and a friendly word for everyone. (Emphasis added)

Only in the world of money management would a person with a house in the Hamptons and an apartment on the Upper East Side, along with club memberships and a 40-year career in banking and investing, be considered “midlevel.”  A midlevel executive in any other industry couldn’t afford to pay the $2,400 per month rent on his son’s Chelsea apartment.  The Times article is a window into just how disconnected Wall Street is from the rest of our society.

Reuters, after describing the circumstances of Mr. Gilbert’s death and his career ended with a peculiar coda:

Wainscott [Mr. Gilbert’s hedge fund] returned 10.48 percent in the first 11 months of 2014, lagging the S&P 500’s roughly 12 percent gain and its 43.92 percent return in 2013, according to a source with access to the fund’s performance figures.[2]

What does Mr. Gilbert’s investment track record have to do with his untimely death?  It’s seems totally irrelevant unless Mr. Gilbert intended his epitaph to read: “he couldn’t beat the market.”

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/18/style/thomas-s-gilbert-jr-the-price-of-privilege.html
[2] http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/05/us-usa-crime-wainscott-idUSKBN0KE05X20150105

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