On a recent rainy Thursday in Manhattan, everyone was a friend of Anthony’s.
Hundreds of them, overwhelmingly men, packed shoulder to shoulder in Anthony’s gilded steakhouse — Hunt & Fish Club NYC — drinking Anthony’s free liquor, had gathered to fête Anthony’s latest book. In Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole: How Entrepreneurs Turn Failure into Success, SkyBridge Capital founder Anthony Scaramucci ostensibly gives the little people a pep talk on making it big. In actuality, the book gives Anthony Scaramucci a pretense to go on television and further pad his speaker bio.
Well, not everyone at the party called Scaramucci a friend. Some called him boss, and they wore bunny ears. Tall, black-and-white sets of satin bunny ears, in fact, in keeping with the rabbit theme of the book’s title. Bartenders and servers looked only faintly embarrassed by their Playboy Mansion getups. As one young man explained, midshake on a martini, “I’m just thinking about the money.” So were a lot of people.
Anyone who has attended SALT — the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, Scaramucci’s yearly Las Vegas boondoggle — knows the scene that night at Hunt & Fish. The place was packed. Nobody sat down. Men in suits hustled like they were on the job; they drank like it was a night out. Probably both were true. The women skewed younger and leggier, with the polish shared by women who’ve climbed to the upper ranks of finance and those who’ve married into it — the subtle differentiator being the size of the handbag. Under an expansive golden chandelier, everybody glittered. The evening’s host wasn’t just in his element, he was the element. “This is what Anthony lives for,” one friend explained.
Skyscraping stacks of Scaramucci’s book took up every surface not covered with cheese pyramids or wet raincoats. At least one of them got opened.
“I founded SkyBridge — an alternative investment management company, focused on seeding and partnering with the next generation of Wall Street’s entrepreneurs — in 2005,” Scaramucci writes in the first chapter, recalling the financial crisis. “And now, just four years later, I feared it [sic] I was going to lose my business.” A typo on page two portends spotty work to come. The author is charming in self-deprecating anecdotes — rolling up to client meetings in his powder blue 1987 Honda Civic, for example — but these morsels do little to break up the overarching experience of being waterboarded by business jargon. “It was an out-of-the-box approach to hopping over a rabbit hole by pivoting a business,” Scaramucci writes at one point, apparently on purpose.
Chapter 1 climaxes with Scaramucci landing Bill Clinton as the keynote speaker for SALT’s second year. He describes cajoling mutual contacts, making a pitch, and winning over Clinton’s gatekeeper. “One discussion later and we got the former President of the United States to speak at SALT!” he exults. He fails to mention that SkyBridge paid Clinton $100,000 for his trouble.
At the book launch Scaramucci proved as brash and unedited in person as in print. “The thing about Jews and Italians: We know fucking people,” he informed a new acquaintance — his version of “nice to meet you.” He offered a high five. “You having a good time?” A rhetorical question. Then, picking up his prior conversation, the Long Island native gave a vivid description of the Department of Labor’s ruling that retirement advisers act in clients’ best interests. It was common knowledge among the guests that he had recently written an opinion piece on the subject for the Wall Street Journal. Anthony’s friends had read it — “of course!” — and they thought he “nailed it.” Anthony thought so, too.
Scaramucci has a dog in the fiduciary fight: SkyBridge Capital sells active management of active managers to investors. And increasingly, those investors are mass-affluent individuals — a savvy out-of-the-box pivot over a rabbit hole for Scaramucci as funds of funds’ traditional institutional investor client base drops the sector en masse. As one of finance’s most prolific talking heads, Scaramucci has focused his recent messaging efforts on three subjects: the fiduciary rule (kill it), his book (buy it), and Donald Trump (win it). At the party, out of earshot of the man of the hour, many guests expressed dismay at Scaramucci’s choice of politics.
That was October 27.
The asset manager known as a sales genius and apathetic investor has since pulled off one of the greatest contrarian plays since the financial crisis: securing the loyalty of the (soon to be) most powerful person on earth. He seeded a fledging presidential candidate with his own credibility when the rest of Wall Street wouldn’t touch Donald Trump. Scaramucci bought into a long-shot start-up and now owns equity in a unicorn. His ROI might be in policy (axing the fiduciary rule), politics (a future endorsement from the president, perhaps?), or simply access and soft power. What’s certain: Like rabbits, Anthony’s friends will multiply.
Leanna Orr is Global Content Director of Investor Intelligence Network (IIN), Institutional Investor’s private community for asset owners.