Zero Hedge – unmasked

NY Mag has story on Dan Ivandjiiski, proprietor of the Zero Hedge financial blog. Excerpts

Out of this scrum, Zero Hedge would distinguish itself as one of the most enterprising and the most combative, although not right away. The site was launched in January of this year, a few days after Dan Ivandjiiski, who lives on the Upper East Side, lost his job at Wexford Capital, a Connecticut-based hedge fund run by a former Goldman trader.

Blogging may seem like an odd career shift for a well-paid hedge-fund analyst, but for Ivandjiiski, it marked something of a return to the family business: His father, Krassimir Ivandjiiski, is a writer and editor at Bulgaria Confidential, a tabloid known for its controversial investigative reporting. In 1996, the elder Ivandjiiski exposed what he said was political corruption and drug trafficking in, of all places, Montana, in a story republished in the U.S. in a shoestring periodical called Free Speech Newspaper.

The story prompted Montana’s governor at the time, Marc Racicot, to charge that a number of libelous statements and defamatory untruths are included in the article, including statements that I have a history of drug abuse and that I am a recovering alcoholic. (Free Speech’s editor responded with a lengthy rebuttal, and the matter faded away.)

Dan Ivandjiiski moved to the U.S. to study molecular biology at the University of Pennsylvania in preparation for medical school. After graduation, Ivandjiiski instead took a job as a junior investment banker at Jefferies & Company in Los Angeles, followed by a brief stint at Imperial Capital. In 2005, he moved to New York to work for the firm Miller Buckfire, where he was accused of personally buying shares in an airline company one day prior to the announcement of a major deal with his former firm Imperial. Though he made only $780 on the trade, an official probe was launched and Ivandjiiski was barred from working in the broker-dealer business. The ban forced him into the unregulated world of hedge funds, where he learned the inner workings of the kinds of high-stakes trading he’d soon be writing about.

When he started blogging, Ivandjiiski billed himself online as Tyler Durden, after the masochistic anarchist played by Brad Pitt in the film Fight Club, who blows up the headquarters of major credit-card companies. The early iteration of Zero Hedge used free online software to publish a generic white page with the name ZERO HEDGE in red at the top, along with a quote from Fight Club: On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero. The site’s first post appeared on January 9 at 4 p.m., and it set the tone: One can follow the daily creation and destruction of wealth simply by looking at the constantly shifting landscape in New York, Ivandjiiski wrote, predicting that an upcoming wave of Page 6’worthy scandals that would disgrace Wall Street.

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John Hempton of Bronte Capital has been among Zero Hedge’s toughest critics, arguing that the high-frequency-trading issue is a storm in a teacup and massively overstated, writing that the argument that Goldies blowout trading profits have been caused by its recent forays into high-frequency trading is absurd. Everyone I know of who has hugely electronic trading systems is making less money, not more.

Hempton also says he was among the first to raise the question of who the hell Zero Hedge isand what his dollar on the chit is. Which is to say, what’s his agenda?