The Amazing Life Of Wall Street's favourite Writer, Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis

Photo: Bloomberg Risk Takers

A few weeks ago, Michael Lewis took a break from working on a movie adaptation of his Wall Street classic, Liar’s Poker, to speak at Princeton’s Commencement.We’d been missing him.

The bond salesman turned literary sensation has changed careers three (or maybe it was four) times before settling in his current niche as one of the most prolific journalist/authors of the past two decades. 

What’s driving this success? Well, most have attributed it to the author’s quirky obsession with the “arena of success” — the competitive spirit that drives the athletic, entrepreneurial and financial minds. 

It’s no doubt that Lewis has built his own “arena of success,” and it’s only getting bigger. 

Lewis was born to a wealthy New Orleans lawyer.

Lewis was born in New Orleans to J. Thomas Lewis and Diana Monroe Lewis, a corporate lawyer and community activist.

He attended the prestigious Isadore Newman prep school, where his fellow alums include NFL brothers Eli and Peyton Manning.

Source: New York Magazine

After spending his life in the South, he studied Art History at Princeton.

Art History. That's right, Lewis graduated from Princeton with a B.A. in Art History. Not necessarily a common major for bankers.

He wrote his thesis on 'Donatello and the Antique.'

Source: Princeton.edu

After graduation he worked in fine arts for a year, but the pay was awful.

His first job after Princeton was with art dealer Daniel Wildenstein as a stock boy in Wildenstein and Co.'s New York office.

Source: Telegraph

He changed course and looked for work in finance. The he enrolled in the London School of Economics.

He moved to London, in part following his girlfriend and (eventually) first wife Diane de Cordova.

His first attempts at getting a job in finance were totally fruitless (all described in Liar's Poker), so Lewis went back to school, enrolling in a Masters program at LSE.

And a bonus fact: he played on the school's Perrier-sponsored basketball team.

Source: New York Magazine

He was worried about finding a job, but everything changed after he dined with the Queen Mother.

While at LSE, Lewis' distant cousin invited him to a dinner hosted by the Queen Mother.

Lewis happened to be sitting next to the wife of a Solomon Brother's managing director.

The woman was so impressed that she called up her husband and demanded that Salomon Brothers hire the charming LSE grad student.

Source: New York Magazine and Liar's Poker

That's where he met the people who would hire him at Salomon Brothers. He worked as a bond salesman.

Lewis became a junior bond salesman for the now-defunct firm, splitting his time between the firm's London and New york offices.

Bonus fact: Michael Bloomberg and passed through Salomon Brothers, and Warren Buffett took the helm of the bank after it was rocked by a bond trading scandalin the early 90s.

Source: New York Magazine

His time at the notorious bank became fuel for his first book — Liar's Poker

Liar's Poker: Rising Through The Wreckage of Wall Street--a 500+ page semi-autobiographical account of Lewis time at Solomon--is considered to be the most accurate representation of 1980s Wall Street.

If you haven't read the book, this line from its preface pretty much says it all:

'Never before have so many unskilled 20-four-year-olds made so much money in so little time as we did this decade in New York and London.'

Source: Google Books

When not authoring instant classics, Lewis started working as a financial journalist. It was an instant hit.

Liar's Poker (and the less famous Pacific Rift and Money Culture) sparked Lewis' career as a financial journalist, which led the former bond salesman to write for Conde Nast's now-defunct Portfolio magazine, Bloomberg and New York Times Magazine.

He is now a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

Source: Vanity Fair

He would publish his next hit book in 1999. It was called The New New Thing.

This time, the author examines the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley.

Using a cynically comedic style reminiscent of that in Liar's Poker, The New New Thing follows the founders of several tech start-ups as they navigate the world of big, fast money.

Source: Google Books

Then came baseball classic Moneyball in 2003

In Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, Lewis writes about Oakland As manager Billy Beane and how he used sabermetric analytics to build a talented team on a small budget.

Slate's Rob Neyer describes Moneyball as 'the single most influential baseball book ever.'

Source: Google Books

In 2006, Lewis finished his next sensation, The Blind Side.

In The Blind Side, Lewis told the story of his high school classmate Sean Tuohy, whose wealthy Memphis family adopted the homeless football prodigy Michael Oher.

The book follows Oher's rise from destitution to football fame, examining offensive football strategy on the way.

Source: Google Books

The book about a wealthy family that took in a poor high school football player was turned into a smash-hit film in 2010

Starring none other than Sandra Bullock as Leigh Ann Tuohy.

Lewis' next adaptation, Moneyball, was released in 2011

Where Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill stole the show.

All together, Michael Lewis film adaptations have been nominated for 8 academy awards.

And won one -- Sandra Bullock nabbed the Best Actress Oscar for her role in the Blind Side.


Source: New York Magazine

As for his personal life, he is married to photographer and former MTV VJ Tabitha Soren and they have three children

He chronicled his parenting misadventures in the book Home Game after his first child was born.

Then he wrote the Slate Magazine column 'Dad Again,' in 2002 after the birth of his second child.

The column became 'Dad Again, Again' in 2007 when baby number three came along.

Soren is his third wife.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Before that he was married to Kate Bohner a Wall Streeter and journalist.

Bohner is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University's School of Journalism and has worked everywhere from Lazard, to CNBC and Forbes.

She's also worked with Donald Trump, co-writing his 1997 book, Trump: Art of the Comeback.

Source: NYT

Besides writing Oscar-worthy works of non-fiction, Michael Lewis made his name as a political activist

In the middle of last fall's Occupy Wall Street fervor, Michael Lewis was open about his pro-99 per cent leanings.

He wasn't hanging in Zuccotti park, but he did write two satirical columns for Bloomberg relaying his support: 'Advice from the 1%' and 'Princeton Brews Trouble For Us 1 Percenters.'

Even after the Occupy Wall Street fervor of fall 2011 ended, he's spoken openly about income equality.

He was the keynote speaker at Princeton's commencement in 2012. There, he delivered a speech that urged students to remember that they are lucky, not naturally superior to others.

From the speech:

All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you'll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don't.

Never forget: In the nation's service. In the service of all nations.

Right now, Lewis has a Liar's Poker film in the works

And who would play the young Mr. Lewis in Liar's Poker: the movie?

Zack Efron, Lewis told CNBC last month.

In the meantime, you can read his latest books, The Big Short...

In The Big Short, Lewis breaks down the 2008 market crash and the creation of the credit bubble throughout the decade prior. He also focuses on the individuals that saw the crash coming.

And Boomerang

For a look at Lewis' thoughts on the sovereign debt crisis in Ireland, Germany, Greece and the United States, check out Boomerang.

As the New York Times wrote: 'Michael Lewis possesses the rare storyteller's ability to make virtually any subject both lucid and compelling.'

And if you're curious what's happened to Lewis' protagonists:

NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos

Want to read a more in-depth view on the trends influencing Australian business and the global economy? BI / Research is designed to help executives and industry leaders understand the major challenges and opportunities for industry, technology, strategy and the economy in the future. Sign up for free at research.businessinsider.com.au.