Writer Eric Spitznagel, the brother of hedge fund manager Mark Spitznagel, had a fascinating essay in the New York Times Magazine this weekend about what it’s like being middle class and having an ultra-wealthy brother.
Mark Spitznagel, founder of hedge fund Universa Investments, is known for his negative predictions about the market. He made a killing betting things would go south in 2008.
In the essay, Eric shared an anecdote about how he was wearing their late-father’s $US50 Timex stainless-steel Timex watch and how Mark tried to buy it off him. Eric refused to sell the watch no matter what price was offered. Instead, the middle-aged men ended up wrestling for the sentimental timepiece.
If you have a brother, nothing about this will seem unusual. This is how brothers interact. It’s how all major and minor disagreements are settled. Or at least it is among brothers who are between the ages of 2 and 18. But Mark and I are in our 40s. And one of us has a private tai chi instructor on retainer. (Spoiler: It’s not me.)
In 2002, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a New Yorker profile on Nassim Nicholas Taleb — Mark’s one-time partner at the firm Empirica Capital — that claimed Mark “exudes a certain laconic levelheadedness.” I wonder if Gladwell would still agree with his assessment if he saw my brother and me wrestling across Mark’s Bel Air backyard at 2 a.m., sweaty and grunting, Mark howling, “Give me the watch, monkeyboy!”
They ended the match with no clear victor. Eric kept the watch.
It didn’t end there, though. Eric writes that they grew closer by taunting each other over their prized possessions that belonged to their father.
In another instance, they ended up arguing for their father’s old moldy teddy bear.