Daily Archives: March 29, 2010

Fine with me

CNN’s ratings continue to plummet.

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Mel Gibson’s place under contract

Last asking price was $29 million, so presumably it’s selling for less than that. 74 acres, great old house, I loved this place. But hardly surprising it took a couple of years to sell – even in Greenwich, that’s a lot of money, and the house was unusual enough to require an out-of-the-ordinary buyer. Guess one showed up.

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Another Galleon Group defendant pleads guilty

This time it’s Robert Moffat, a former rising star at IBM. A strange case: the man was reported to be on track for the highest positions, the secrets he passed on netted him no gain and he didn’t trade on the information himself, so why did he do it? If I read the article right, he’ll have 3-6 months of downtime to figure it all out.

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A pessimistic view of the Chechnya mess

Putin has spent years brutally trying to suppress it, the Chechens respond in kind and on and on it goes. Not only does the author hold out little hope for a resolution, she points out that the 2014 Olympics are scheduled to be held right in the heart of the area. Those are probably games better watched from the comfort of your living room.

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Farming: it’s always something!

Ah, pack your bags, Grasshopper! We must flee!

WSJ: Grasshopper invasion looks likely in nation’s heartland this summer.

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Another viewpoint on Stevie Cohen

(DealBook, NYT)

One I don’t necessarily share but if Greenwich Time doesn’t want Teri Buhl’s output, I’m grateful to have it.


What the NY Mag story didn’t tell you about Stevie Cohen v. Mrs-Ex SAC

By Teri Buhl

Today we learned that the secretive hedge fund manager from Greenwich, Stevie Cohen of SAC Capital, whose trading prowess is legendary, is not so good at managing his family life.  According to a New York Magazine article, he plays an underhanded game of mental abuse to control the people in his family. Steve Fishman’s two month investigation into the lives of Steven (the billionaire hedgie), Alex (current wife), and Patricia (ex-wife) Cohen gives us an on the record account of the domestic financial battles of the Cohens over the last twenty years. Unfortunately, the New York Magazine story left out some very important facts in their tale of all things Cohen that we know were discovered in their research and not reported.

At the heart of this story are the dollars paid to Patricia for child support and household expenses for the children as part of her divorce settlement. We found the explanations of these numbers, as reported in New York Magazine, are not what they appear to be.  First of all let’s be clear: it’s the current wife Alex who reigns over monitoring the payments to Stevie’s ex-wife Patricia and signs the check.  A move Alex relishes and lords over like the mad Queen in Alice In Wonderland, because according to Patricia, reimbursement payments were often challenged as unnecessary or not related to the children.

Take a look at this example in Fishman’s story:

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.

That sounds like a lot in a year and makes you question what Patricia has to complain about. Except according to documents seen by this reporter, that sum also included a $200,000 loan that Alex and Stevie had given Patricia with 7% interest with a 12% late fee penalty. Patricia ended up paying back the loan within months and Steve and Alex made $13,000 on interest.  Also the $576k sum included household and kids expense for 2-3 years, not just one. Patricia’s attorney told this reporter that on average Patricia was only reimbursed around $125,000 a year for expenses she had already had to spend on the children including college tuition, room, and board, which otherwise not be paid on time by Alex and Stevie.

Patricia told this reporter, “I have never once, submitted a reimbursement request for any expense that was either explicitly stated as Steve’s obligation per the terms of our agreement that address child support, or an expense that fell outside of those outlines, that Steve did not specifically approve in advance of the expenditure.”

The worst part is according to Patricia’s current lawyer, Gaytri Kachroo, principal at Kachroo Legal Services P.C., these facts and loan documents were presented to Fishman for his story but clearly were left out. This makes us seriously question what other facts Alex and Steve manage to massage in the story.

Kachroo told this reporter, “We reluctantly agreed to respond to questions in the New York Magazine story around the children’s expenses as they are irrelevant to Paricia’s divorce settlement. But we did provide documented evidence so that the issues that arose concerning reimbursements where accurately detailed. However I see very little evidence of the information we supplied.”

When we asked Fishman, the writer, why factual information was left out of his story he only responded asking what publication I was writing for and did not supply an explanation. Fishman did tell Kachroo that parts of the story were cut by the editor because of space –A reason we find journalistically irresponsible. There was a clear effort to write both sides of the story so why leave out those facts?

But that’s not the only missing link New York Magazine chooses not to tell the reader. There is an implied tone that after the divorce, Patricia never even bothered to try and work and earn money for herself. Yet according to Patricia she continued doing real estate deals for the first ten years after her divorce in which she’d buy properties, fix them up and sell them for a profit. Alex Cohen is quoted in Fishman’s story wondering to a friend “Why didn’t she get a job?” Yet Alex knows full well that Patricia did work and also that she’s been plagued with a chronic illness for the last 10 years.

In an interview with Patricia, she described months of hospitalization over problems with her pituitary gland.  Her chronic illness affects her thyroid and kidneys, a medical disease that comes without warning and can place her in the hospital for months. According to Patricia’s attorney, Stevie’s divorce settlement covers her health insurance for life but since 2001, her illness has made it difficult for Patricia to work. In fact of the $9,000 monthly payments she gets from Stevie today, only $2,500 is left over for travel to see the kids, for groceries and household expenses she must still supply as the children live with her some of the time, and other health related costs given her illness: $3,500 goes to her son, $1,500 for health insurance, and $1,500 for rent in an apartment Stevie owns. But none of this was explained in the New York Magazine story. According to Patricia, Alex and Stevie even tried to downplay Patricia’s illness when Fishman asked them about it saying ‘Patricia has allergies.”

Now as Patricia is about to re-file her civil RICO suit against Stevie for allegedly fraudulently concealing from her the true value of their marital assets during their divorce, some media reports and commentators label her as a money grubbing ex-wife who keeps going back to the well because she can’t manage money. Others cheer her for standing up to the powerful multi-billionaire who can squash her with legal fees and cut off her only source of funds. When I asked Patricia why Stevie doesn’t just settle with her and avoid the public battle, one that’s only added to the suspicion that he’s been avoiding taxes and running insider trades for years she simply answers, “We would probably have to start to talk for that to happen.”

New York Magazine’s ‘Divorced, Never Separated’:

[Editors Note: Teri Buhl is an investigative financial news reporter who has written for: Trader Monthly, New York Post, HousingWire, Dealbreaker, Greenwich Time ]

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Tax the rich, don’t touch Social Security spending and don’t tax me!

The economic illiteracy of our citizenry continues unabated.

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15 Dorchester Lane, Riverside

(Original) ask $1.295 million. Sold: $975,000. Assessment. $860,000. Almost everything that’s selling these days is in the $1.5 million range and below.

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One pending sale and a bunch of new listings going nowhere

55 Edgewater

 

Assessment: $785,000. Final asking price: $775,000. result: contract. 

On the other hand, there are lots of new listings today, including one that is asking $1 million more than was paid for it in 2004 because – well just because, damn it! And one in Riverside asking almost 3X its assessed value for the same reason. I don’t expect I’ll have to rush to see these.

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Can anyone help here?

I received this message from a Riverside reader. Anyone who could help out, let me know and I’ll put you in contact.

I heard a story last week about a local man and I have been trying to think of how to help him and I thought you might be able to help with your knowledge of local real estate.

There is an elderly couple in Cos Cob who had their house rendered unlivable by the storm a few weeks ago.  The husband is a crossing guard at Riverside school so I see him every day.  They have been living with his son but apparently he needs to find a local, furnished rental until his house can be repaired.  I couldn’t ask why he can’t stay with his son as he started to get choked up telling me about how hard it has been.

So, if you know of a local rental, especially one where the owners would be willing to take a below market rent (maybe a carriage house or apartment above a garage) it would be a very good deed for these nice people.

UPDATE: Reader JJ reports that local family has put them up. That’s great.

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Poor bastards

So Australia’s mining giant, Rio-Tinto, refuses to do a deal with China last summer. China responds by jailing four Chinese Rio-Tinto employees and last week, after nine months in the cozy, comfortable confines of a Chinese prison, they all plead guilty. Today they’ve been sentenced to seven to fourteen years in jail and the Aussies and Chinese are cooing soft noises about doing that deal after all. Too bad for the four employees – Rio Tinto has fired them because they were shocked, shocked! – to discover gambling going on – but business is business, eh?

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My son asks some good questions

Daddy-o,

Having recently passed through Reno amidst the throngs of traveling tea baggers, I recommend you attend one of their more rural rallies before you toss in your favor with that lot.  We’re talking neo-nazis, the bloody-sign waving pro-lifers, and the toothless gun wavers convinced that Obama is closer to a fascist than Goebbels-incarnate Glenn Beck.  Raised in the Fountain household, I was once under the impression that we were of the Conservative persuasion because we we knew more, were well-educated, and we had a greater long-term sense of rational.  While I believe this still may be the case, I must have missed the mutiny (and I like a good uprising) for the ship now sails at the hands of the very morons and fools we Fountains have refused to tolerate for centuries.

Buckley Jr may seem like a turn coat in the halls of the good ol’ boys, but he feels the same and makes a good point.

I say let the tea-baggers collect the dregs of society, and let the GOP sail on for a fresher catch.  Liberals and Dems that I know talk a good show about saving mankind, but are truthfully just as invested in personal wealth as the rest of us.  I think 9 out of 10 lefties would vote McCain over Palin any day of the week, were that the choice given.  Will allowing gay marriage really crumble the cornerstones of our country?  Do you really think the administration is forcing us to register firearms so they can come in the night and take them away?  Is it a terrible crime that now broke fools like myself won’t put their fathers in the poorhouse for breaking a leg?  And why do the tea baggers scream and belly-ache about removing the government from their lives, and then bemoan the cuts to medicare and claim the government needs to provide more jobs?  Huh?

I imagine you’ve got some ideas on this matter, so set me right.  Who are these nincompoops and what does this mean for the future of conservatism?  I’ll be in my doublewide.

Yer son

This boy obviously needs a good talking to – on the other hand, maybe it’s his father who does! It’s a grand thing having children who think for themselves, eh?

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Riverside’s Tim Armstrong and his difficulties reshaping AOL

Neighbor/friend/internet guru Andrew Bein sends along this interesting article (and it was his son Warren Bein who rescued my kayak – thank you, Warren!)

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Mairead O’Sullivan ( or close to that, anyhow – I have real difficulty spelling Jewish names) represented the buyers who bought 18 Bowman Drive (King Merritt) Friday for $1.410 million. Not a bad price at all, courtesy of the foreclosing bank. This property was an ill-advised spec house, planted on a back lot, under a looming water tower and next to a graveyard – location, location, location and, kiss of death, priced at $2.685 back in February, 2007. Assessment is $1.736 million, so I think someone got himself a very nice,new house for a decent price. Good for him.

We also already have three contracts reported this morning, which I mentioned last week. 18 Grant Avenue (OG), 3 Cherry Lane (OG) and 37 Long Meadow Court (NoPo, Rvsd) all asked $1.5 million or less, and sold quickly. I was out with clients in that general range on Saturday and discovered that we were very much not alone. The $2.5-$5.5 range may be languishing, but there are a lot of buyers out looking in the lower range.

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Easter cooking

I’m going with a butterflied leg of lamb, barbecued, but for the lamb haters in the extended family, I’ll also cook a ham. Cook’s Illustrated gives top rating to Cook’s Spiral Hams – specifically, the bone – in “Honey Ham”  ( no corporate relationship – name coincidence) , and I agree. Nice meat (toss out the freaking glaze package though – I’ll give you a superior recipe later this week) already cooked, so just warm and serve, Delicious and usually sold at bargain rates this time of year. Official retail is around $3.50 a lb., but look for sales at Food Mart or Shop Rite and I bet you can do better.

Product Name

Cook’s Spiral Sliced Hickory Smoked Bone-In Honey Ham

Manufacturer

Cook’s

Price

$3.29 per pound

Recommended

Testers’ Comments

Nearly every taster praised the “nice balance of smoke and salt” and “genuine ham flavor.”


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And speaking of Mitzvot

Last week’s storm redistributed creek neighbors’ belongings up and down the waterway. Someone (Andy Bein – you?) found and retrieved my kayak, and similarly, brother Gideon fished out this Adirondack chair and placed it on our seawall, for its owner to see it and claim it. No takers so far, but here’s its picture. If it’s yours, email me (christopher.fountain@gmail.com) or call at 249 – 4394 and I’ll pop it in my trunk and bring it back to you.

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Nice story about the joys and woes of reaching out to help others

Good deeds before Passover – accepted, rejected, it’s the human story here, condensed. I myself have been recently blessed by my pal Joel Kaye’s mitzvah, and am determined to pass that on. So happy passover to all of us: Jew, Christian and plain old pagans.

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Good news, kind of

Krazy Kat sends along this WSJ article on mortgage rate re-sets that indicates that it’s less of a problem than has been feared. That’s because  so many sub-prime variable borrowers have already defaulted, as well as the fact that those particular borrowers’ problems are dwarfed by the number of homeowners whose house values have plunged underwater.

The housing market still faces enormous challenges, and a full recovery is likely to take years. The threat posed by resetting payments, Mr. Khater says, is “a drop in the bucket” compared to problems posed by the sheer volume of borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth, known as being “under water.”

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(Yet another) study shows mammograms useless

This one from Denmark. Those of us in Connecticut who can still buy our own health insurance rather than ObummerKare will be gratified to remember that Connecticut requires insurers to pay for this procedure – as a male, I would have preferred to opt out of this cost even before procedure was deemed to be of no value but that is not a choice I am allowed to make.

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