Friday, January 9, 2009

I'm The Man Buying Stocks On The Day Of The Crash

Hey, do you know what's really interesting about the recent financial crisis?

All the corporate suicides!

There's been a bunch of 'em recently. CEO's, investment bankers and hedge fund managers all over the world are committing hara-kiri like nobody's business. One nutty blogger even has a running tally of mortgage-related suicides in the US and it's currently up to seventy two (although I'm not sure when he started counting or what his criteria is.)

Technology hasn't helped the trend either. According to the Financial Times, in mid-October, at the peak of the financial crisis, the phrase “suicide methods” suddenly rose to a multi-year high on Google Trends, which tracks how often words or phrases have been searched on Google. Some people have gone as far as calling it an epidemic.

Yes, by all accounts, it's a hard knock life right now for the stinking rich. So much pressure at those ridiculously high-paying jobs! I don't envy them at all.

The following are some of the more notorious suicides that caught my eye:

-Back in September, Kirk Stephenson, the CEO of private equity house Olivant, jumped in front of a speeding train at a rail station west of London because the value of his company's stake in banking giant UBS went down 20% from £950million to £770million (that's British Pound Sterlings signs, kiddies) and apparently he couldn't handle the stress that went along with that type of loss. He was married and had an eight year old son. I guess he must've not been thinking about them when he made the decision to leap onto the tracks.

But you know, poor guy, he had to do it. Do you expected him to downgrade to a 200 foot yacht with just ONE measly helicopter?!? Fuck that. Once you get accustomed to a certain lifestyle, it's hard to go back. It was best to leap in front of that speeding train. It was courageous, really.

-A few months later, two days before Christmas in New York, Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, was found dead at his desk, both wrists slashed and a bottle of pills nearby. Apparently, the esteemed monsieur told the cleaning staff at his office that he wanted them out by 7pm so that he could work late, then locked the door and placed a waste paper basket under his desk to catch the blue blood flowing from his open wrists (how considerate of him.) Security staff found him the next morning, still sitting at his desk, with a box-cutter on the floor beside him.

The guy's fortune was the definition of "old money", as his relatives had been ennobled by France's King Louis XIV after bankrolling his reign --some of them even got guillotined for it back at the height of the French Revolution. Apparently not enough of 'em, though.

M. de la Villehuchet had lost $1.4billion of his family's money in the notorious Bernard Madoff scam. When it became obvious to him that the money lost in the Ponzi scheme was unrecoverable, he chose to end it all rather than face life being just mildly wealthy. How noble of him.

-In more recent news, the body of Chicago real estate mogul Steven L. Good was found in his Jaguar (pronounced "Jag-yu-wahr", of course) just this Monday, dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. His firm was responsible for more than 45,000 properties sold for over $10billion in sales, but I guess he couldn't handle the pressure of the real estate bubble bursting. Maybe he wasn't much of a saver.

-And the very following day, German billionaire Adolf Merckle, jumped in front of a train in the town of Blaubeuren in southwestern Germany after his holding company, VEM Vermoegensverwaltung (phew, thank god for cut & paste) ran up a significant amount of debt. His personal net worth at the time of his death was estimated at around $9.2billion, down from a previous estimate of $12.8billion. That extra $3.6billion really made a difference, huh?

Oh sure. You might think I'm a jerk for making jokes about these people's misfortunes, but I don't feel any sympathy for these materialistic pricks, none whatsoever. If they measured their self worth by their bank accounts and couldn't go on living because of a slight dip (or even a huge one), then fuck 'em. They were probably doing more harm than good in the world. I'm not hating, I'm just saying that there's way more people in the world that are deserving of some pity than these greedy bastards.

And can someone explain what is up with all the death-by-train suicides? What are these rich motherfuckers doing at the train station? Shouldn't they be jumping from their private jets into molten gold pools while strangling themselves with diamond-encrusted choke chains? That's what I'd do with my billions. Because, you know, there's only so much shit you can buy before getting bored --at some point you gotta get creative.

All of this just reminds me of this video, courtesy of the Onion:


  1. don't you think that you're perhaps judging these people rather harshly, and judging their alleged shallowness by some pretty shallow standards of your own? just because someone has money doesn't automatically make them a bad person, just as it's not always safe to say that someone who doesn't have millions of dollars is a saint.

    i know this is supposed to be a "silly" blog posting, but it just seems a bit cruel. (and by "a bit" i mean "very")

    these people were just that - people. sure, there are business people who suck. there are also business people who are wealthy who do things like start the Gates Foundation. there's actually an article in the Guardian from last September that states that charitable giving has risen 15% among Britian's top 1,000 wealthiest people. "the 1,000 wealthiest people in the UK are collectively worth over £412.8bn, a rise of nearly 15% since 2007. And as personal wealth has grown, so has their desire to give it away. In Britain, where the average person gives £150 a year to charity, the top 30 philanthropists last year committed to donate £2.38bn."


    And then there's people like the much praised and heroicized Sen. Joe Biden, who is wealthy by anyone's definition of the word...

    "Last Friday, Sen. Joseph Biden, the Democratic candidate for vice president, released his tax returns for the years 1998 to 2007. The returns revealed that in one year, 1999, Biden and his wife Jill gave $120 to charity out of an adjusted gross income of $210,979. In 2005, out of an adjusted gross income of $321,379, the Bidens gave $380. In nine out of the ten years for which tax returns were released, the Bidens gave less than $400 to charity; in the tenth year, 2007, when Biden was running for president, they gave $995 out of an adjusted gross income of $319,853."

    it just seems tragic that people somehow feel that they can mock and make extremely negative assumptions about these bankers who are offing themselves, w/out any knowledge of the real story behind their deaths.

  2. Well, it was my intention to be a bit cruel with this post. Whether it's George Carlin riffing on people dying in natural disasters or the Onion running a headline like "New Pain-Inducing Advil Created For People Who Just Want To Feel Something, Anything", it's clear that cruelty sometimes plays a part in satire and commentary.

    Whether the readers of my blog find it funny or callous, that's another story. But frankly, I'm not too concerned with that. Since most of the readers are people who know me and my sense of humor, I'm fairly certain they know where I'm coming from --it's a thin line I'm willing to tread.

    And I'm not so sure my approach was so shallow in this post. I didn't make any blanket statements saying that rich=bad and I will stick with the notion that the examples I gave were of people who, in my eye, acted on selfish and superficial motivations.

    I read Kirk Stephenson's memorial before writing this post and, while saddened for his wife and son, I also found it grievous how selfish Kirk's decision was to end his life under these circumstances.

    It was that emotion that I was attempting to get across (but maybe I'm just not that good.) I appreciate your comment and thanks for reading.



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