The Infuriating Optimist (And His Blown Deadline)
For a capital manager who's lost $6 billion in assets, Pete Thiel has an awfully rosy worldview: The Facebook investor is calling baby boomers the "dumbest generation" and, we hear, infuriating co-workers by calling for patience at his foundering fund.
Thiel's Clarium Capital was down 16.4 percent through November, the New York Post reported, with assets down to $1.6 billion from a historic high of $7.3 billion, capping a string of monthly declines we reported previously. And yet, in a lengthy interview with Big Think (embedded below), the PayPal co-founder sounds as imperious and sanguine as ever, calling Baby Boomers "the dumbest generation" for launching two massive financial bubbles in a row , and saying the country needs to get over its immediate financial pain and invest for the next 20 years (see excerpt above).
Both points have some merit. But a dot-com executive needs balls of steel to cast financial judgment on the generation whose recklessness made him hundreds of millions of dollars, particularly when he took that money and used it to start a now-flailing hedge fund.
And that bit about long-term thinking is scarcely comfort to Americans in financial peril — like Thiel's own managing director Jack Selby who, a Clarium insider tells us, ended up in heated fights with Thiel earlier this fall "about how blasé we can be about our recent performance." Thiel thinks Clarium can think long term; Selby purportedly thinks the bleeding must be stanched more quickly.
Jack is the one who has to market the fund; Selby actually has very little to do with performance. Peter's responsible for this mess himself and he knows it, as he vets all our big moves.
Selby reportedly said Clarium had to turn around its performance by the end of the year; Thiel retorted that this was short-term thinking. Selby then took offense, and Thiel — blowing his constant, almost robotic even temper — "blew up at him. We are under a lot of tension here."
With the end of the year fast approaching, it's inconceivable that Thiel's fund can meet his managing director's would-be deadline. Judging from his Big Think video, it doesn't look like Thiel is letting this affect his holiday spirits. Well, maybe he's on to something, again. Obsessing over money will do few people any good this Christmas. Even if they're supposed to be "managing" hundreds of billions of dollars.