Steve is a long way from the Sears-catalogue junior trader. He’s 53, soft-chinned and paunchy. He’s been bald for years, and what’s left is closely cropped and gray. He runs a huge investing business now, and is aggressively growing it; he can’t think of anything he’d rather do in life. Steve is a demanding boss, overseeing 300 managers, traders, and analysts, all of whom know the guiding principle. At SAC it’s “down and out”: Lose money and you’re gone. For years, Steve liked to sit at the head of a large table, a video camera broadcasting his every move and comment to his traders, each of the master’s gestures important. His own trades account for some 10 percent of the company’s profits. He likes to jump in and out of short-term bets, a game that keeps his interest up. He’s mellower now. The market no longer beats him up emotionally—he can even lose $100 million of his personal money, as he did one day not long ago, and shake it off.
His vast fortune insulates him, no doubt, but Steve cites another reason for his equilibrium. “I have a wonderful wife,” he says. In 1991, Steve met Alexandra Garcia through a dating service—she was the only one of twenty women who responded to his invitation. “She’d always wanted to marry a millionaire,” a friend told BusinessWeek, though she also saw Steve’s other charms. She thought he was the funniest person she’d ever met. (Steve took note: Patricia had found his sense of humor stupid.) Alex didn’t want to change Steve; she wanted to be with him. “The day we met I knew I was going to marry him,” she later said.
Alex, now 46, a dozen years younger than Patricia, is Puerto Rican and sweet-looking, with lovely skin and surprising hazel eyes. She didn’t graduate from college, but she’s bright and pointed, with a gentle, responsive laugh and her own sense of injury. She doesn’t come from privilege. She was born in the projects in Harlem, though, like Patricia, she grew up in Washington Heights. That upbringing didn’t make her feel entitled, and she dislikes people who do.
Patricia Cohen: “I just will never understand his anger, the turning on me.”
Steve Cohen: “She’s a terrorist on a mission to make my life a living hell.”
These days, Alex helps give away millions to charity, shows up at events on Steve’s arm. Still, she wears Gap and drives to Costco, alert to bargains. And she takes care of her man. She doesn’t complain that he works too much; she lauds his devotion to their kids. If he has a bad day at work, she cooks his favorite meal, pasta with anchovies.
Steve lives like a comfy king with his queen in a lavish compound with a fully loaded sports complex: hockey rink and basketball court, swimming pool, and, on the grounds, a two-hole golf course and a home for Alex’s parents. “I don’t need a house this big, but you know what? Why not?” Alex told The Wall Street Journal.
And on the wall hangs the world’s most expensive art. Steve moves the art market, too, often overpaying, which seems part of the pleasure. He spent over $500 million on a Picasso, a Warhol, a de Kooning, a Van Gogh, one of Monet’s Water Lilies. He just picked up a Jasper Johns for $110 million. And he paid $8 million for Damien Hirst’s shark in a tank of formaldehyde, apparently his joke about the hedge-fund world.
Steve made the art decisions, and he left Alex to run the household, including the finances—which means, among other things, she controls her predecessor’s cash flow. It was a special twist of the knife. After all, Alex wasn’t well disposed toward Patricia. Before they were engaged, Alex and Steve broke up four times because he kept returning to that woman.
Alex, who raised a child partly as a single mother, has her own issues with Patricia. “Why didn’t she get a job?” she wonders to friends. Now it’s Alex who combs through Patricia’s bagfuls of receipts and writes the checks. “I paid for every paper clip,” she told a friend, “if it was for the kids,” and that’s over and above the child support. She keeps records of every single disbursement, from a futon for $173 to the daughter’s car and taxi rides, for a bulging $19,800 in 2001, to the son’s car service to school in Riverdale (Patricia thought the kids were entitled to be driven to school), another $6,400. In 2001, Alex wrote checks to Patricia totaling $576,950, though the average annual payment, including child support and all other expenses, was closer to $400,000 while her kids were at home, according to documents. Of course, however generous the sum, it was no hardship for Steve. In 2001, Steve earned $428 million, according to Institutional Investor.