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Lifestyles of Wall Street's top earners

June 11, 2007 13:17 IST

It's no secret they make piles of cash. What's not as well known? The idiosyncrasies of Wall Street's elite.

Take SAC Capital Partners top dog Steven A. Cohen. He buys the rights to photos of himself in advance of any public appearance. Even in the Internet metasphere, he is a cipher.

The quirkiness doesn't stop there. Picked up in the mornings by private car from his $15 million 14-acre compound in Greenwich, Conn., and delivered to SAC headquarters in Stamford, Conn., Cohen, 50, works in an office flanked by a 14-foot tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde. In the SAC lobby is "Self" by Marc Quinn, a full-size replica of the artist's head, sculpted from Quinn's frozen blood.

Lifestyles of Wall Street's top earners
Wall Street's highest earners 

Makes it difficult to imagine breaking an SAC confidentiality agreement.

Global macro trader Louis Bacon, who runs four hedge funds, including Signature Moore Global Investments, from New York and London, switched to Wall Street after working on a fishing boat during a summer home from college. Bacon, 50, continues to love the outdoors, only now he owns his own hunting island. Located off the eastern coast of Long Island, N.Y., Bacon's $11 million sportsman's playground is called Robins Island and has 435 acres of preserve where Bacon throws traditional English hunting parties.

Spread the Wealth
Financiers like these made their fortune managing money, but they need people to help them spend it. Who do they rely on? Jack-of-all-trades real estate agents who are able to deal in beachfront properties, yachts and private jets.

"The billionaires I deal with are not interested in touching their money--they want someone to take care of things like houses and yachts for them," says David Popham of Jeanne Baker Realty in Coral Gables, Fla., who lists some of South Florida's most expensive beachfront real estate.

They also want more than one place to rest their feet. GLG Partners managers Noam Gottesman and Pierre Lagrange have that covered.

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Lagrange has a home in Oxfordshire dubbed "Buckingham Palace in Miniature" by the Daily Mail for its layout that features 25 front-facing windows. The home is Lagrange's second--or third, depending on the order of rank for his $30 million Chelsea townhouse and Courchevel, France, apartment. Gottesman resides in a $36 million six-story London townhouse where he keeps his Porsche Cayenne and MG Convertible. He also keeps a residence in New York for his bimonthly American trips.

Jealous? Don't be. It's not always easy being rich. For the jet set, scheduling, disclosure of finances and setting time tables for buying everything from houses to Gulfsteam V's can be difficult. Beating the Street to the tune of 44% returns like Medallion fund manager James Simons leaves little time to manage acquiring homes, planes and the like.

"See, the problem is that most of these Wall Street gurus are masters of the universe,'' says Dolly Lenz, a broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman who has represented Donald Trump for close to 20 years, ''so they want what they want when they want it. I arrange private schools, nannies, vacation plans, you name it. If you drop the ball somewhere you could lose a friend and a client. You have to be prepared."

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And once all is settled, the only remaining chore is finding posh furnishings for the plum residence.

The preferred method of decoration for Wall Streeters involves high-priced art. Picking up where legendary pop art and abstract impressionist dealer Leo Castelli left off is music mogul David Geffen, who sells Warhols, de Koonings, Pollocks and Picassos to the hedge fund upper crust. In November 2006, Cohen paid Geffen $137.5 million for "Woman III" by Willem de Kooning. One month prior, Kenneth Griffin, managing director of Citadel Investment Group, paid Geffen $80 million for "False Start" by Jasper Johns.

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This type of spending may seem overindulgent, but when you're Renaissance Technologies chief James Simons making $1.5 billion a year, or BP Capital's T. Boone Pickens pulling down $1.1 billion per anum, you might as well enjoy the money.

"The super-wealthy are open to suggestion and adventure," says Popham. "My suggestion to them is to spend the money, and sometimes people need that push."

Matt Woolsey, Forbes