FLASHBACK: The New Yorker: Novogratz, Bitcoin, And The Changing Financial Hierarchy

The New Yorker put out a piece chronicling Michael Novogratz’ path to Bitcoin and digital currency fame that is worth reading from start to finish. It is a master class download of how the landscape in finance continues to shapeshift in the aftermath of the financial crisis (or because of it) and the players keep changing places on the chess board.

We’ve put together some highlights of the article and our commentary in the following paragraphs, but implore you to go read the entire article. It is that good.

The ‘story’ is told through the prism of Michael Novogratz’ career and his current Bitcoin fame, post Fortress, and post-post Goldman Sachs ‘pivots’.

Michael is probably the most well-worn Bitcoin and crypto pundit found on CNBC, Bloomberg and any other video media outlets that will take him. Here is The New Yorker describing Novogratz in his current iteration:

“…2017 was proving to be pivotal for him and a motley band of other sidelined investors seeking redemption—think the Winklevoss twins—as they tethered themselves to the year’s most befuddling financial event: the rise of cryptocurrency. Novogratz had recognized its potential when one of his partners at Fortress, Peter Briger, introduced him to one of its earlier evangelists, an Argentinean investor named Wences Casares. In 2013, Novogratz put seven million dollars of his own money in cryptocurrency investments when bitcoin was selling at around a hundred dollars a coin. (A single coin currently sells for more than sixty times that amount.) Citing his luck at being in the right place at the right time, Novogratz has called himself “the Forrest Gump of bitcoin.””

So (and most of you know this) Novogratz got in pretty early and has been a HODLR ever since. A Bitcoin evangelist and a bit of a hero to the community. Here is another portion of the article that further describes Novo; specifically during the financial crisis, and how he was handling it:

“Novogratz was a whiz at raising capital, but Fortress, like much of the financial world, was soon blindsided by the 2008 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing crisis. “I saw it happening,” Novogratz said. “But I couldn’t move the ship fast enough.” He added, “With hindsight, macro shouldn’t be in a public company.” According to him, Lehman’s collapse alone cost the fund between four and five hundred million dollars. An acquaintance of Novogratz’s described running into him outside the offices of Fortress during that time, eating a hot dog as he braced for a meeting with his co-workers. “He says, ‘I don’t want to go up there. It’s all bad up there.’ The world was melting. He was very emotional.””

Fascinating stuff. Novogratz’ history on Wall Street, and noted in this article, is a modern day living and breathing novel. So now we come to Bitcoin:

“By the fall, Novogratz was a billionaire once more. The price of a single bitcoin had been close to three thousand dollars during the summer; now it was clawing at five thousand. I visited him one Wednesday in October, at his office, walking in past a large statue of Evel Knievel in the lobby—the base reads “Bones heal, pain is temporary and chicks dig scars.” Plush sofas were occupied by representatives of the Brown University endowment, a member of the board of Tesla, and the heads of a major publicity firm, among others. Two weeks earlier, Novogratz had announced his decision to rejoin the hedge-fund world and launch a cryptocurrency fund with a hundred and fifty million dollars of the money he had personally made on crypto and three hundred and fifty million from outside investors.”

The article continues and continues and continues. In a way, it is a short novel describing Novogratz’ journey from traditional finance to crypto, hedge fund culture at large, and the emerging role that cryptocurrencies are playing in that world more and more each day. It is an absolutely fascinating read.

Go read it, now! Michael Novogratz: Wall Street Legend Bets On Bitcoin

Gary Shteyngart is the author of “Absurdistan,” “Super Sad True Love Story,” and “Little Failure,” a memoir.