People in the News: High Rollers

Activist investor Carl Icahn bites Apple, actor Chris Noth plays equity trader and tycoon Guo Guangchang buys a Manhattan landmark.


Betting Big

It wasn’t business as usual for Bloomberg Tradebook on October 17, when the agency brokerage hosted its second annual Halloween-themed Charity Day. Among the celebrity guests at the firm’s New York HQ: hip-hop mogul Sean Combs and former New York Ranger Mark Messier. On the floor Mr. Big — Sex and the City star Chris Noth — donned a Tradebook black fleece vest and got some brief training from head of trading and execution consulting Rob Shapiro. “He’s trading like a pro; he’s trading big,” Shapiro said. “We’d hire him any day.” Noth, 58, was raising money for New York–based Labyrinth Theater, one of several beneficiaries that split the day’s $1 million-plus in gross commissions from Tradebook’s New York and London offices. “I think you have to be very smart to do it,” he said of equity trading. The actor admitted to investing his own assets in index funds and in companies such as Ford and Starbucks. (Read more about trading and technology.) — Frances Denmark

Public Icahn

Bristly activist investor Carl Icahn has taken over the Internet. Icahn, 77, recently dumped half of his stock in online movie and TV service Netflix for a reported $800 million profit. But it’s the Brooklyn-born billionaire’s public battle with iPhone maker Apple that’s moving the market. Late last month Icahn sent his 100,000-plus Twitter followers a link to his new website, Shareholders’ Square Table, on which he posted his letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook arguing for a $150 billion share buyback. Pimco boss Bill Gross told Icahn in fewer than 140 characters to back off and focus on philanthropy like fellow rich guy Bill Gates. The LBO legend challenged Gross to give away much of his wealth by signing Gates’s Giving Pledge, as Icahn has done. He first tweeted his “large” Apple position on August 13; the stock rose 4.8 percent that day, adding about $17 billion to the company’s value. It gained 1.3 percent on the date of Icahn’s latest missive. (Read more about investors.) — Ben Baris

Hourican Lands

The former head of Royal Bank of Scotland’s investment bank has made a surprise comeback as CEO of the Bank of Cyprus. John Hourican (pronounced “hurri-can”) resigned as chief of RBS’s markets and international banking division in February after the bank, which is 80 percent owned by the U.K. government, paid £390 million ($632 million) to settle allegations that its traders manipulated Libor, the rate at which banks lend to one another. Hourican, 43, stepped down despite not having led the unit when the alleged manipulation occurred; colleagues thought he might return to his native Ireland for a government post. Instead, he will restructure Cyprus’ largest bank, which was recapitalized through a bail-in from depositors after the EU and the IMF rescued the country in March. Hourican’s restructuring experience at RBS, recipient of a £45 billion taxpayer bailout during the financial crisis, reportedly helped him win the job. (Read more about banking and capital markets.) — David Rothnie

Change You Can Bank On

Grammy-winning rapper, political activist and private equity partner? In July a trio of entrepreneurs filed papers with the SEC announcing the formation of their new private equity firm, Washington-based DuSable Capital Management. All three are backers of President Barack Obama: former high-tech executive Frank White Jr., onetime investment banker Shomik Dutta, and Prakazrel Samuel Michel, or Pras, the rap artist best known as a founding member of the Fugees. Haitian-American Pras, 41, is a top donor to the president’s new political action committee, Organizing for Action. What might the rapper bring to a PE firm besides cash? Consider his relief work in Haiti. DuSable has disclosed that it plans to make energy and infrastructure investments in the U.S. and emerging markets; Haiti would fit the bill. DuSable reportedly hopes to raise as much as $1 billion. (Read more about alternative investments.) — Imogen Rose-Smith and Georgina Hurst

Empire Building

Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang just took a bite of the Big Apple. Last month his Shanghai-based Fosun International conglomerate agreed to buy New York’s One Chase Manhattan Plaza, the 60-story former headquarters of Chase Manhattan Bank, from JPMorgan Chase & Co. for $725 million. A Fudan University philosophy grad, Guo built the small market research company he co-founded in 1992 into Fosun by diversifying into pharmaceuticals, real estate, and iron and steel production. The One Chase Manhattan purchase is a sign of similar U.S. acquisitions to come, says Beijing-based independent wealth consultant Sunny Li: “Chinese tycoons like physical assets.” Fosun chairman Guo, 46, whose net worth Forbes puts at $3.25 billion, fits that description. His company and France’s Ardian (formerly known as AXA Private Equity), which together own 20 percent of Club Med, recently won regulatory approval for a €557 million ($729 million) buyout of the French resort operator. (Read more about corporations.) — Allen T. Cheng


A Private Appointment

When Larry Schloss took over as CIO of the $140 billion New York City pension funds in early 2010, he relished the challenge but hated the Bureau of Asset Management’s dingy offices in downtown’s gargantuan Manhattan Municipal Building. Now he’s happy to be moving back uptown. This month Schloss, 59, who headed private equity businesses for investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette and Credit Suisse before his stint with the City, has returned to his old midtown haunts by joining $24 billion alternative-investment house Angelo Gordon as president. He says he learned a lot by spending nearly four years in the public sector — knowledge he plans to put toward developing bespoke customer accounts. “I understand the needs of large institutional investors much better than I did before,” Schloss explains. And no doubt he appreciates Angelo Gordon’s sleek Park Avenue offices all the more too. (Read more about asset management.) — I. R.-S.

Pension Camelot?

A member of one of America’s most prominent families is taking on a crucial public policy issue: retirement. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the eldest daughter of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, has joined the board of the Washington-based Pension Rights Center, a nonprofit that advocates for pension security. Townsend, who was lieutenant governor of Maryland from 1995 to 2003, is most interested in U.S. states’ attempts to devise new pension models. For example, California state Senator Kevin de León recently championed a successful bill that will offer low- and middle-income private sector workers a state-managed retirement fund. Townsend, 62, who also serves as a senior adviser to $7.3 billion Washington-based fund-of-hedge-funds firm Rock Creek Group, says she’s “working on state efforts to create pooled and professionally managed funds for the millions of Americans who have no pensions.” (Read more about pensions.) — I. R.-S.