In his new book, "The Greatest Trade Ever," Wall Street Journal senior writer Gregory Zuckerman, an Orthodox Jew from West Orange, details how John Paulson, his associate Paolo Pellegrini, and several other relative Wall Street outsiders managed to make billions of dollars betting against the real estate bubble.
There’s no obvious Jewish angle to the book, although Paulson grew up attending the Whitestone Hebrew Centre in Queens. But when an Orthodox Jew writes a story about outsiders versus insiders, and the outsiders win, could the Jews’ long history as outsiders be far from his consciousness?
It’s a question that left Zuckerman scratching his head, and ultimately agreeing.
“I hadn’t thought about the Jewish angle. But maybe that’s part of why they are attractive characters to me,” he said, sitting at his dining room table, surrounded by his children’s artwork. His words race out; his thoughts come two or three at a clip. To say he is enthusiastic about his work, his book, and the personalities he covers doesn’t quite hit the mark; if he were a market, you might call him exuberant.
“John Paulson, although he is a Wall Street person, is pretty much the last person you would have expected to have pulled off the greatest trade in financial history, because he wasn’t a real estate guy, he wasn’t a mortgage guy, he wasn’t a derivative guy, and he wasn’t a short seller, and that’s what it took to do this trade,” Zuckerman said. “It took outsiders to see this coming. They weren’t caught up in it. They didn’t drink the ‘Kool-Aid’ of real estate.”
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