The men behind the legendary finance blog Zero Hedge have been unmasked after one former blogger with the site revealed the identity of his employers.
Speaking with Bloomberg reporters Tracy Alloway and Luke Kawa, Colin Lokey — described as a “political science graduate with an MBA and a Southern twang” — said he was part of a three-man team running Zero Hedge, the blog best known for its sensationalist headlines and bearish outlook on the world.
Lokey, 32, says the other men behind the site are 37-year-old Daniel Ivandjiiski, a Bulgarian former hedge fund analyst, and Tim Backshall, a 45-year-old credit derivatives strategist.
Lokey worked for Zero Hedge for more than a year, according to Bloomberg, but decided to go public after leaving the blog in what Bloomberg describes an “acrimonious departure” in which “two-thirds of the trio traded allegations of hypocrisy and mental instability.”
The identity of the bloggers running Zero Hedge has long been the subject of speculation in the financial community, with Ivandjiiski often cited as the likely source of much of the site’s content. As early as 2009, speculation that Ivandjiiski could be behind the blog appeared in US media, with a New York Post article titled “BLOGGER MAY HAVE A PAST” speculating that he was in fact behind Zero Hedge.
Ivandjiiski worked in a hedge fund before being kicked out of the securities industry during the height of the financial crisis in 2008 for insider trading, Bloomberg says.
Backshall frequently tweets under the handle @credittrader and has made appearances on CNBC. In 2012, for example, Backshall appeared on CNBC by phone to discuss the credit default swap market. The screenshot below is taken from that appearance.
Backshall declined to comment to Bloomberg on the matter, while Ivandjiiski confirmed that the three men were the only ones on Zero Hedge’s payroll in the past year. He added: “Ultimately we wish Colin all the best, he’s clearly a troubled individual in many ways, and we are frankly disappointed that he’s decided to take his displeasure with the company in such a public manner.”
Secrecy at Zero Hedge is helped by the fact that all reports on the site are filed under the byline Tyler Durden, taken from one of the protagonists of the cult movie “Fight Club.”
The Durden byline reflects the character’s bleak outlook on the world, which is thought to be shared by the men behind Zero Hedge. Played by Brad Pitt, he despises the financial system and consumerism, frequently spouting lines like: “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s— we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place.”
That bleak, anticonsumerist approach is not true, Lokey told Bloomberg in an email. “What you are reading at Zero Hedge is nonsense,” he said. “And you shouldn’t support it. Two guys who live a lifestyle you only dream of are pretending to speak for you.”
Lokey told Bloomberg the site had a strong focus on traffic and making money and that headlines were discussed fervently to maximise traffic. This wasn’t denied by Ivandjiiski, who told Bloomberg: “Ultimately, the website makes money, and it’s profitable, which is also why we’ve never had to seek outside funding or any outside money — our only revenue is from advertising, always has been since day one. Obviously, every publisher’s mission is to maximise revenue and page views, and we think that we do it in a way that is appropriate.”
Since Bloomberg’s post was published, Zero Hedge has posted a rebuttal to the article, alleging that much of what Lokey told Bloomberg is in fact untrue, and that Lokey is “an emotionally unstable, psychologically troubled alcoholic with a drug dealer past, as per his own disclosures.”
Lokey earned $6,000 (£4,100) a month at Zero Hedge, he told Bloomberg, topped up with a $50,000 (£34,290) bonus.