Wall Street's Latest Court Battle


It was a dark and stormy night. A dozen or so men from the higher reaches of hedge funds and private equity firms had gathered together in the basement of a building in Greenwich Village. The purpose that had brought the dozen together was not plotting out the next big trade.

These men were there to play ball. Literally. They were playing basketball.

The event took center stage at the annual Net Gain Tournament to benefit Youth I.N.C., a nonprofit consultancy founded by Goldman Sachs alum Steve Orr. The group aims to improve the sustainability of youth-targeted nonprofits.

Each year Net Gain teams up Wall Streeters with high schoolers round robin style, but the main event is a full-court faceoff between hedge funds and private equity execs.

I wish I could give you the report at halftime, the looks on the players' faces, the locker-room speeches, etc. Unfortunately, since the game was only 15 minutes long, there was no halftime and few timeouts. Imagine a buyside senior night, where everyone plays.

The game was intense, though: Twice tied (at 2, and then 8), at which points the navy-suited crowd made some noise. A former college cheerleader, I've heard my fair share of sideline chants, but last night's was a first: "LET'S GO PRIVATE EQUITY!"

But it was the hedge funds who won the day, edging the PEs at 14-12.

For a group more accustomed to gamesmanship, there was ample sportsmanship to follow, with the requisite handshakes and butt slaps. A post-game look at the court saw Rick Shifter, partner at TPG Capital, snap a Blackberry picture of John Wallace, one of his team's "coaches". ("Stars -- they're just like us!")

The chip on the shoulder for the winning hedgies?

"Those guys go to camp," siad Rob Platek, partner and president at MSD Capital, the investment outfit of computer mogul Michael Dell. (Platek said Dell was traveling in Texas, otherwise would have surely come watch him play.)

Sure enough, Platek was talking about Ted Virtue, the MidOcean Capital CEO caught dribbling between his legs and around the back during the game. For a telltale sign it was true, I had to look no further than Virtue's royal blue warm-up suit that came from Duke University's basketball camp.

[Disclosure: Though Virtue co-chairs Youth I.N.C.'s board of directors, there was no catering sighted from Sbarro.]

Last night’s hedge fund victory means that each side has now two wins under its belt. So next year's match between the tied rivals should be a nail-biter.

Until then, Platek's office will play host to the "Stanley Cup"-esque trophy. As captain of the hedge fund team, he gets the honors, but isn't boasting: "It's only for a year."


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