Friday, April 18, 2008

Options for a Hedge Hog

Ever since writing about John Paulson, the hedge fund manager who made $3.7 billion (with a “b”) last year, I’ve been noticing how $3 billion or $4 billion gets mentioned in the news.

Every time I see the number, I think, “Hey, that’s about what Paulson made last year!”

So today the $3 billion number cropped up not once but twice in the front section of The Oregonian. No, it wasn’t in the front page stories headlined “Confessed killer’s words set him free,” “DA says DNA links suspect to Wilberger,” or “Hey, Kids! It’s good to jump off the bed.” (And they call this a NEWSpaper?)

No, the first mention of $3 billion was on page A5. Headline: “Older people’s memory problems tied to incontinence drugs.” Now there’s news a few million of us can use. It's good news for me, I guess. At least I know my memory problems — I have a few — don’t result from incontinence drugs — yet.

So here’s the $3 billion reference: “U.S. sales of prescription drugs to treat urinary problems topped $3 billion in 2007, according to IMS Health, which tracks drug sales.” The story goes on to say that bladder control is a problem for about one in 10 people age 65 or older.

There you have it — Paulson could keep an entire generation out of diapers and still have $700 million left over for his own modest needs (more on those later).

Second reference, page A7 (If I ran the Oregonian’s, this one would easily bump anything the editors put on today’s front page). Headline, “Study: 300,000 veterans suffer war-related mental problems.” Here’s where Paulson’s $3.7 billion annual take might help. Third paragraph: “Beyond the personal trauma experienced by these (300,000 returning) troops, the problems are costing the country $3.1 billion a year in medical care, lost productivity and suicide, (the) RAND (corp.) estimates.

Paulson, who contributes regularly to hawkish Republican candidates, could pick up those costs and still have $600 million left over.

How about it John? How about helping the traumatized casualties from W's oil war?

Or perhaps you have something better to do with $3.1 billion.

Nosing around on the web last night, I got a sense of what that might be.

This from a 2005 New York Times story about the super-rich snapping up mansions on Manhattan:

“Another mansion with a new owner and a renovation plan is the 20,000-square-foot former Town Club on East 86th Street, which was sold last February for $14.7 million to John Paulson, a money manager. The property has a swimming pool in the basement and portraits of the 12 Caesars overlooking the stairway in the main hall, according to Mr. Pennoyer, who was consulted on the renovation.

“Paula Del Nunzio, the broker at Brown Harris Stevens who sold the mansion, said the family plans to keep the swimming pool. She wasn't sure about the Caesars, which have frames decorated with swags and oxen heads.”

I could find no follow-up story about how Paulson, no doubt soaking in his basement swimming pool, made the tough decision about whether to get rid of the Caesars, swags and oxen heads, but I’m sure he did the right thing — Caesar-wise.

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