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masters of the universe

Cliff Asness, Superhero

Growing up, Cliff Asness was your typical Clark Kent type. “He was the king of the geeks,” a former classmate tells Bloomberg Markets. He loved comic books and didn't have a lot of success with the ladies, and stayed this way through college at the University of Pennsylvania, where former professors hoped he'd become an academic. But this was not to be. Cliff's destiny, according to his high-school yearbook? “Rich.” He began working at Goldman Sachs, where a hedge fund he started took off, then left to start his own fund, AQR, with $1 billion. It was around then he started to change. His ego skyrocketed to massive heights, and he began, the magazine reports, to "identify" with the superhero figures he had never stopped collecting. He began to think he was a superhero.


Asness admits to a superhero complex. His favorite Marvel comic book character is Captain America, who gains strength with the help of a secret serum and whose shield can be used as an indestructible weapon. Asness has an image of the shield tattooed on his left arm. “His supervillains are intellectual dishonesty and ignorance,” says Jonathan Beinner, managing director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and a former classmate of Asness. “When someone offers an opinion that Cliff feels is incorrect or dishonest, whether it be related to investments, politics or pizza, he feels it is his duty to stand up, even if it’s not in his best interest.”

His special power? Being a gigantic jackass.

His enemies? Lately, the Obama administration. "What kind of coward doesn’t share his views?” he asked, of the president. “I believe strongly that the world is going on the wrong course.” In March, he praised the tea-party activists: "Your aggressive stand for freedom and small government has inspired the country," he wrote. However, between 2007 and 2009, his fund absolutely hemorrhaged money, going from $39.1 billion to $17.2 billion, and currently, his main Absolute Return fund’s assets are down to $1.6 billion from a peak of $4 billion. And in terms of effectiveness, he is kind of more Hancock than Hulk:


He's knocked his ViewSonic computer monitor to the floor on three occasions, though it never broke."Either they're building good computer screens or my punch isn’t what it used to be," he says.

Foiled!

The Quant Who Won't Shut Up [Bloomberg]

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Photo: Bloomberg Markets