December 22, 2011

But Not Yet.

Joba: Now we are free. I will see you again. But not yet. Not yet.

I use Gregory Zuckerman's "The Greatest Trade Ever" as an allegory or vehicle to tell two stories, one much more important than the other.

Paulson's journey, the crux (in my view) of Zuckerman's book, is analyzed nicely in these portions of two reviews (here and here):
  • "Beyond the interesting outsider-type characters working at Paulson, Zuckerman's book offers many lessons for small and large investors. One is the risk, but potential reward, that comes from breaking away from the herd mentality that surrounds Wall Street. Nobody on Wall Street gave these guys a chance, when they started betting against housing. In fact, Paulson was routinely laughed at. Because the banking infrastructure was making so much money off of housing in 2004 - 2006, there was no reason for so many people to imagine it would end. Even among hedge funds -- who are paid handsomely to anticipate and invest in where the puck is going, not where it's been -- precious few made this bearish trade. At the time, wise managers saw only the obstacles to the trade working out (like the federal government bailing out sub-prime borrowers and "containing" the problem from other parts of housing) and they clung to a misplaced blind trust in "their models" which showed housing couldn't decrease in value. Even after he makes the bet, Zuckerman points out how there are so many times that people tell Paulson to take the bet off or cash in his profits too early. His own investors complained. Complaints also came from brokers from Bear Stearns and others who helped sell him the credit default swaps on the toxic tranches of mortgage bonds, as well as the most troubled sub-prime lenders and banks holding the troubled securities. Even his own staff complained that he wasn't taking money off the table. They told him to sell when he was down in his trade and they told him to sell when he was up on the trade after New Century reported its first blown quarter in early 2007. Through it all, Paulson stuck to his guns because he foresaw even bigger profits ahead - and he was proved right. As a fund manager, I often ponder the challenge of balancing between (1) trusting yourself and your investment thesis completely even when no one else does and (2) being aware enough to know when you're being too stubborn and "not seeing the facts" or when the trade is going against you. In Paulson's case, every new bit of data which came to light and possibly contradicted his investment thesis was always scrutinized by him and his team to see if they had "missed something." He always stuck with the trade because he felt confident in the depth of research they had invested in understanding the problem/investment opportunity."
  • "The remarkable thing about this story is the fact that Paulson's idea can be summed up by one simple chart: a plot of how much real estate prices had diverged from their historical norm. That chart, crafted by then Paulson & Co analyst Paolo Pellegrini, would serve as the glistening prize in their collective trophy case. What this book shows you though is just how complex of a journey it was to arrive at that simple piece of paper. While Zuckerman's work rightly showcases Paulson as the protagonist, it also details the journeys of other individuals pursuing the same historic trade. It details the investment timelines of Jeffrey Greene (an investor who knicked Paulson's idea and tried it on his own), Michael Burry (an investor who made the right call but was early to the play), and Andrew Lahde (the hedge fund manager who pursued his conviction in the play and later penned the infamous 'F*ck you' goodbye letter to Wall Street)."

The first story is about Craig, Tim, Eric and, later, Peter, and their journey starting in the 1990s when they began searching for new photo-activated compounds for clinical use. In spite of an industry telling them otherwise, they find themselves, after years and years of intelligent and hard work, on the cusp of success: for patients around the world, for shareholders, and for themselves.

The second story is just about me, and a journey to validate my career in and passion for investment management and corporate development; validation through the manifestation of a "too large for my own good" investment in Provectus. The greatest trade ever? Not yet.

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