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The Alpha Masters: Unlocking the Genius of the World's Top Hedge Funds [Hardcover]

Maneet Ahuja , Mohamed El-Erian , Myron Scholes

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Book Description

May 29 2012
The ultimate behind-the-curtain look at the hedge fund industry, unlocking the most valuable stories, secrets, and lessons directly from those who have played the game best.

Written by Maneet Ahuja, the hedge fund industry insider, The Alpha Masters brings the secretive world of hedge funds into the light of day for the first time. As the authority that the biggest names in the business, including John Paulson, David Tepper, and Bill Ackman, go to before breaking major news, Ahuja has access to the innermost workings of the hedge fund industry. For the first time, in Alpha Masters, Ahuja provides both institutional and savvy private investors with tangible, analytical insight into the psychology of the trade, the strategies and investment criteria serious money managers use to determine and evaluate their positions, and special guidance on how the reader can replicate this success themselves.

There are few people with access to the inner chambers of the hedge fund industry, and as a result it remains practically uncharted financial territory. Alpha Masters changes all that, shedding light on star fund managers and how exactly they consistently outperform the market. The book:

  • Contains easy-to-follow chapters that are broken down by strategy--Long/Short, Event Arbitrage, Value, Macro, Distressed, Quantitative, Commodities, Activist, pure Short, Fund of Funds.
  • Includes insights from the biggest names in the trading game, including Ray Dalio, Marc Lasry, Jim Chanos, Sonia Gardner, Pierre Lagrange, and Tim Wong.
  • Features contributions from industry icon Mohamed El-Erian

Many of the subjects profiled in this groundbreaking new book have never spoken so candidly about their field, providing extremely provocative, newsworthy analysis of today's investing landscape.


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The Alpha Masters: Unlocking the Genius of the World's Top Hedge Funds + Hedge Fund Market Wizards: How Winning Traders Win
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Review

'...this is a well written book about some of the more colourful figures in the world of high-stakes investing. Anyone looking for a decent holiday read could do a lot worse' (Money Week, June 2012) 'There is not a dull moment, and one may even come out a much wiser investor by the end of the book.' ( eVestment|HFN , June 2012) 'Using savvy and psychological understanding she fully grasps the nature behind the secretive trade, and gives the reader guidance to replicate success.' (European CEO, 1st August 2012)

Review

“This is one of the very few books I know of that crawls inside the minds of today’s most brilliant investors to get the play-by-play of their best (and sometimes worst) investments. You feel as though you are sitting across from the likes of John Paulson and David Tepper as they share their most sought-after techniques and analysis. This book will pay for itself and then some for those who are smart enough to pick it up.”

—Nouriel Roubini, Cofounder and Chairman, Roubini Global Economics, Professor of Economics, NYU Stern School of Business

“Maneet Ahuja knows well the stars of the hedge fund universe. She has written a really very interesting book that provides insights into the industry, its rapid evolution, and its adaptability to a constantly shifting investment landscape. But, most of all, she introduces us to its fascinating leaders, in depth. From their backgrounds, values, and modes of thought, she gives us insight into what it takes to be successful in this most demanding profession.”

—Michael Spence, 2001 Nobel Laureate in Economics, former Dean of Stanford Business School

“Hedge funds carry a range of connotations for investors, both good and bad. Maneet’s demystification of this increasingly important sector of the financial world provides a valuable service for investors, as they look for alternatives to the financial institutions—and investing tenets—that failed them during the financial crisis.”

—Sallie Krawcheck, former CEO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and U.S. Trust

“No one has the type of access to this elite class of hedge fund managers as Maneet Ahuja does. The Alpha Masters provides the type of in-depth insight and advice that only comes from countless conversations and time spent one-on-one with these managers. The Alpha Masters is bound to be a classic.”

—Leon G. Cooperman, Chairman and CEO, Omega Advisors, Inc.

“The Alpha Masters has captured the background, the ideas, and the money-making cutting-edge strategy of today’s drivers of financial thought, analysis, and action. It is a great read for those who track the capital market and the tug-of-war between creativity, ideas, and capital market stress.”

—Mario J. Gabelli, Chief Investment Officer, GAMCO Investors, Inc.

“The great cultural divide in journalism has always been between access and accountability reporting. But, in the end, it’s really just a division of labor; readers need both. Ahuja works the access side of the street, and gets people to talk as few others can. The result is a surprisingly absorbing book about people who you can’t help but be curious about.”

—Dean Starkman, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and Editor of the Columbia Journalism Review ’s “The Audit”

“Maneet presents clear and thoughtful studies of some of the most successful investors of recent years. The Alpha Masters is highly recommended as an excellent guide to what has worked best recently in the rapidly changing and sometimes secretive world of hedge funds.”

—Jim McCaughan, Chief Executive, Principal Global Investors

“With great insight and clarity, Maneet Ahuja distills the essence of what makes hedge fund managers successful.  The leading – and legendary – figures in the business provide her with their recipes for the “secret sauce” that puts them ahead of the rest.  This book is a must read for anyone considering investing in, working in, or just plain interested in the hedge fund industry.”   

—Randall S. Kroszner, Norman R. Bobins Professor of Economics, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago and former Governor of the Federal Reserve

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  74 reviews
101 of 109 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hype for Hedge Funds Aug. 6 2012
By auilachs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a very odd book - only suitable for pop-culture enthusiasts. "Alpha" suggests risk adjusted returns to investors - not to their investment managers. However, the whole text is a glowing tribute to the wealthiest investment managers. The wealthiest managers are those who have raised the most assets from the public, but every study on the topic indicates that smaller funds are better for investors. Why does this matter? As the old saying goes, "where are the investors' yachts?" I have been reading financial publications from a full array of sources (everything from WSJ/ pop-culture texts to juried academic publications/PhD dissertations) for 28-years. "The Alpha Masters" really belongs at or near the bottom of the quality pile. The book is largely a snap-shot biography of the wealthiest hedge-fund managers, with no regard to their clients' results. The text includes a photo-insert of billionaire investment managers enjoying hobbies like playing chess, fishing, scuba-diving, and hiking around volcanos. Maneet's photo (she is the author) incorporates a plunging neckline, and her descriptions of her interviews read like Cosmo or Vogue ("...he was dressed in...", "...we had Diet Coke and turkey sandwiches...", "... the plush carpets..."). Many readers will also find the abundance of clichés more distracting than a sound bite from a professional athlete. She writes: "The journey is the process...and it often takes a good deal of back-and forth before decisions are finalized." Good job, Maneet! Way to give 110% for the team when everything was on the line! If you are a high-school student who needs to do a book report over a weekend, OR if you need to line a cat box/bird cage - this text would be an excellent choice for either task. If you are in the industry, or a potential hedge fund investor, you will be very disappointed by this book. That said, "The Alpha Masters" is probably the most intellectual effort CNBC's "Squawk Box" has ever attempted. Booyah - Maneet! Hopefully, you won't get busted by the SEC with Cramer and Maria B. As for how Maneet accessed such extraordinary opportunities - beginning as a teenager - well, I don't fully understand. However, I suspect that she might just know how to exploit "alternative assets" better than any of the managers she profiled. The afterword by the legendary Myron Scholes is hilarious. He notes that she misunderstands the word "alpha", and he writes "I don't know how she was able to assemble this amazing group (or even how she got me to write this afterword)..."
44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Forward is Excellent, but ... June 19 2012
By Walter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had just finished Scwager's "Hedge Fund Market Wizards" and was really looking forward to a continuation of a well written, intellectually stimulating look into the Hedge Fund world. The forward to Alpha Masters is Excellent and I was energized, but I couldn't finish the first chapter, or any other one for that matter. Schwager and Ahuja set out on a common theme ... bring the manager's persona, his strategies and methodologies to the reader. Schwager succeeded and delivered a stimulating scene setting intro, incredible dialogue and high level summary of each manager. As far as Alpha Masters, I agree with some of the other comments: it is poorly written, superficial and disjointed in its analysis and full of metaphors and anecdotes that do not serve any purpose. The books shared at least one common "Master" and / or "Wizard". The level of insight delivered by Scwager was phenomenal, Alpha Masters fell flat.

So ... If you are looking for a book that is undersold and over delivers, I cannot recommend Alpha Masters. To add some context, I have spent the last 25 years of my career in the institutional capital markets. Others may enjoy it, but I wish I had read the reviews before I "one-clicked" Alpha Masters!
74 of 87 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another Book Review from the Aleph Blog May 20 2012
By David Merkel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Would you like to understand the mindsets of a variety of successful hedge fund managers? This book will give that to you, but there is a catch: you will also learn how these managers developed, and this is a big plus.

Most of the managers went through rigorous experiences that made them far more effective at evaluating risk and return potentials. Have you been through anything similar to that? If not, you might read this very interesting set of accounts, but then realize that you don't have the personality/skills necessary to replicate what they have done. Don't feel bad, most people don't have that.

A large part of what makes hedge fund managers successful is their willingness to limit their activity to areas where they have genuine expertise. They gain insight beyond most into areas where they are experts in discerning value.

This book does not give you a formula for how to make money; instead, it gives you lessons in the characters of those that have made a lot of money for themselves and their clients. What are they like?

Among their many attributes, they are:

Driven/competitive -- though I have known my share of failures in investing that have that attribute.
Lifelong learners, like Buffett and Munger -- though I have known some really bright people who know a lot about investing/finance who add little to an investment process.
Opportunistic -- they recognize what their best opportunities are, and pursue them to the exclusion of others.
Focused -- they develop an edge, and try to be "best in class," whether in mathematics of the markets, understanding the legal rights of different types of securities, understanding industry dynamics, accounting nuances, etc.
Patient -- if opportunities are not promising, don't do much. It's like being an intelligent underwriter -- when your competitors are giving away the store, don't write business, spend time sharpening your skills. Study what could go wrong, and see if there is a way to take advantage of the situation.
Team-builders -- They develop talented teams/cultures and motivate them to excellence.
Sensible -- They know when to be doggedly persistent, and know when to admit defeat.

Now, no hedge fund manager has all of these, but the best have most of them.

Contents

The book covers nine managers/firms:

Ray Dalio -- Bridgewater
Pierre LaGrange & Tim Wong -- MAN Group / AHL
John Paulson -- Paulson & Co.
Marc Lasry and Sonia Gardner -- Avenue Capital Group
David Tepper -- Appaloosa Management
William A. Ackman -- Pershing Square Capital Management
Daniel Loeb -- Third Point
James Chanos -- Kynikos Associates LP
Boaz Weinstein, Saba Capital Management

About the Author

Her name is Maneet Ahuja, and is a producer for CNBC, specializing in covering hedge funds. That's how she gained the contacts in order to write the book. Business Insider did a profile on her, and you can find it here.

Quibbles

The book needs something to tie it together and give it depth, otherwise the book is only "Meet these nine nifty hedge fund managers that I have gotten to know." That's a serious deficiency; even a single chapter at the front or back would have enriched the book, making it more general and cohesive.

I also think there would have been better choices for those that wrote the foreword (Mohamed El-Erian) and the afterword (Myron Scholes). The former is an accomplished investor, but is not an expert on hedge funds. Myron Scholes is an accomplished academic, has worked for hedge funds, but is still not an expert on them.

Who would benefit from this book: If you want to learn about what type of people these nine hedge fund managers are, and read anecdotes about some of their best and worst trades, this would be a book you would enjoy.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Sept. 16 2012
By Richard Bobb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In a word: "disappointing".

I had no desire or urge to complete reading the book after the first few chapters.

What I did read seemed disjointed and without purpose.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst interview book with traders I've ever read (and I collect these books) Sept. 8 2012
By Straddle1985 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Normally I love reading interviews with famous traders/funds managers. The Market Wizard series Jack Schwager wrote is one of my favorite series, just as Inside the House of Money: Top Hedge Fund Traders on Profiting in the Global Markets or Money Masters of Our Time. I thought I would like this book because it's a recent book full of interviews with well known hedge funds managers I only knew slightly. I was eager to read the interviews with Tepper, Paulson and Lagrange since it's not that easy to find direct interviews with them.

To my surprise this book was one major disappointment. It starts of pretty good with a terrific forward and then the author starts her interviews. These interviews are not detailled, very easy going talk and nowhere do they get concrete. The average interview might sound like "I graduated from Harvard where I learnt how to analyse companies and understand financial events. Later on I rolled in the finance world working for Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley. I was very competitive and value driven and worked really heard. That's how I learnt to invest/trade and beat the markets". Don't expect any details or trading specifics or advanced financial topics.
I would have expected these traders to tell something concrete on their trading. For example a stock they bought, why they bought it, what went wrong with it, how they learnt from it, what they look out for right now when managing money, ... Come on, it couldn't have been that hard. The author had the luxury to talk to a group of elite top traders and in my opinion she screwed it up completely with this book.

To give you another example: On page 29 there is interview with Tim Wong, an engineer from Hong Kong now managing a top hedge funds. The interview starts of with his studies and how important team work is. On page 31 he states "So, risk management is actually the most important part of what we do. In our business, you could be out of the game. Protecting your chips is the trick."
Well that's enormously fascinating, but how is this guy now actually managing his risk? Is he using stop loss orders, is he trading correlated markets similarly, is he trading derivatives to hedge his risk, ... ? I don't have a clew. The author should have asked this and dealt with it in at least a bit of depth. Nowhere does she do so.

I think the author was a bit worried that technical talk or difficult trading terms might scare away potential readers. The result is an empty book with trading interviews without content. I really don't see how anyone can get anything useful out of this book.

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