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Extended Audio Sample The Greatest Trade Ever: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of How John Paulson Defied Wall Street and Made Financial History, by Gregory Zuckerman Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,261 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Gregory Zuckerman Narrator: Marc Cashman Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In 2006, hedge fund manager John Paulson realized something few others suspected--that the housing market and the value of subprime mortgages were grossly inflated and headed for a major fall.  Paulson's background was in mergers and acquisitions, however, and he knew little about real estate or how to wager against housing.  He had spent a career as an also-ran on Wall Street. But Paulson was convinced this was his chance to make his mark. He just wasn't sure how to do it.  Colleagues at investment banks scoffed at him and investors dismissed him.  Even pros skeptical about housing shied away from the complicated derivative investments that Paulson was just learning about.  But Paulson and a handful of renegade investors such as Jeffrey Greene and Michael Burry began to bet heavily against risky mortgages and precarious financial companies. Timing is everything, though. Initially, Paulson and the others lost tens of millions of dollars as real estate and stocks continued to soar. Rather than back down, however, Paulson redoubled his bets, putting his hedge fund and his reputation on the line.
  In the summer of 2007, the markets began to implode, bringing Paulson early profits, but also sparking efforts to rescue real estate and derail him. By year's end, though, John Paulson had pulled off the greatest trade in financial history, earning more than $15 billion for his firm--a figure that dwarfed George Soros's billion-dollar currency trade in 1992.  Paulson made billions more in 2008 by transforming his gutsy move.  Some of the underdog investors who attempted the daring trade also reaped fortunes. But others who got the timing wrong met devastating failure, discovering that being early and right wasn't nearly enough.
  Written by the prizewinning reporter who broke the story in The Wall Street JournalThe Greatest Trade Ever is a superbly written, fast-paced, behind-the-scenes narrative of how a contrarian foresaw an escalating financial crisis--that outwitted Chuck Prince, Stanley O'Neal, Richard Fuld, and Wall Street's titans--to make financial history.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Simply terrific. Easily the best of the post-crash financial books. Malcolm Gladwell
  • Mr. Zuckerman is a first-rate reporter who is also able to explain the complexities of real estate finance in layman’s terms. At times, The Greatest Trade Ever reads like a thriller. The New York Times 
  • How Paulson and a handful of contrarian investors pulled off this once-in-a-lifetime coup is the subject of The Greatest Trade Ever ... a fascinating and believable counter-narrative to the growing pile of books recounting the disastrous mistakes made by many of the supposedly smartest minds on Wall Street. It is also a surprisingly dramatic work...In The Greatest Trade Ever, Zuckerman skillfully shows how Paulson and a few cohorts anticipated a disaster and figured out a way to profit. BusinessWeek
  • More than a cinematic narrative of how Paulson and others figured out how to short the market. We’re also reminded of how opaque and illiquid some financial instruments are, how little Wall Street executives understood them, and how difficult it was for more knowledgeable bankers to say that the subprime emperor had no clothes. Bloomberg.com
  • Zuckerman has a story to tell, a thread to follow, and it just happens to turn out that by following the saga of John Paulson, Zuckerman reveals all kinds of fascinating perspectives on complex finance, the real estate bubble and Wall Street and Washington's difficulties in putting the two together. TheDeal.com
  • A magnificent insider look at how Paulson and others profited off of subprime’s demise, detailing both the formulation and implementation of such a trade…Zuckerman’s work is both insightful and gripping. Marketfolly.com
  • Greg Zuckerman was the first to tell the world about John Paulson's sensational trade…He's written the definitive account of a strange and wonderful subplot of the financial crisis. Michael Lewis, bestselling author of Moneyball and Home Game
  • Gregory Zuckerman takes us to Wall Street's heart of darkness, where mushroomed a $1 trillion subprime mortgage market that only the few, the brave, the smart dared short. The story of John Paulson and the few colorful contrarians who made outsized bets and outrageous profits on the subprime implosion, is at once a great page-turner and a great illuminator of the market's crash. John Helyar, co-author, Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco
  • Greg Zuckerman's book is much, much more than a brilliant account of Paulson's trade of the century; it also provides a highly enjoyable and lucid journey through the analytical and emotional maze that constituted the financial markets on the eve of the Great Recession. The book is compulsory reading for those looking for exceptional insights on the complex forces that interconnect Wall Street, hedge funds and Main Street. Mohamed El-Erian, Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Investment Management Co. and bestselling author of When Markets Collide: Investment Strategies for the Age of Global Economic Change
  • I couldn't put it down. All I can say is, WOW! What a story! Incredibly illuminating. Whitney Tilson, hedge fund manager and author of More Mortgage Meltdown: 6 Ways to Profit in These Bad Times
  • "A wonderful, fast-paced summary of how John Paulson, a hedge fund manager, made billions of dollars. Sarasota Herald-Tribune
  • The Greatest Trade Ever is aptly titled, for it is possibly the greatest book to come out of the financial crisis of 2007 — 2008, and it’s certainly up there in the top 3. Bnet.com
  • "...a Tour de Force chronicling the rise of John Paulson from a mediocre merger arbitrage investment manager into a financial titan. Marketthoughts.com
  • "An astonishingly interesting story. David Warsh, EconomicPrincipals.com 

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Graham Flower | 2/19/2014

    " Book describes How Paulson navigated the very tricky bet he placed against the housing market which made him a record amount of money in a short time (4 billion) and made him one of the wealthiest men on Wall Street. Book gives some significant information which helps you to understand Wall Street. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Brady Dale | 2/14/2014

    " I really liked it. I've been reading books on the Financial Crisis left and right, but this is the first one (OK, to be fair, I listened to the Audible version). I was really, really into it. It's a great story and you'll learn a lot about derivatives and how this all went down. I'm tempted to say it's as good as that one by the guy who wrote MONEYBALL, but, again, it was the first one I read so that gives it clout. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Mickaugrec | 2/11/2014

    " The Greatest Trade Ever is an absorbing read; an adroit journalist, Zuckerman finds the drama in the figures and events as they apparently unfolded (a skill shared by documentarians and fiction writers, working at their best), avoids the trap of wealthy white guy porn and manages to explain credit default swaps in a concise way understandable to people who do NOT work in the securities trading industry (including and especially me). As Tina Brown's Daily Beast promised, it's pretty fascinating. What's missing, and this is my political perspective, stay with me, is acknowledgment of the apparent fact that credit default swaps do not provide any benefit to the defaulting debtor (or even, if I've got it right, to the creditor who holds the defaulted instrument, usually a 'bundle' of residential mortgage loan which are saleable as securities, or slice / 'tranche' thereof). Thus it is purely a gambling transaction, adds no value to the economy except it generates immediate periodic fees or premiums for the seller (e.g., Bear Stearns) and a potential payoff to the purchaser (e.g., hedge fund, Jon Paulson in the book), just as though the two parties were betting on the outcome of a cockfight or football match. No land is conveyed, no product is manufactured or sold, no company receives an investment of capital (other than payment of the periodic premiums and payoff mentioned above). Author Zuckerman is a Wall Street Journal writer or columnist by trade, so he's 'Drinking [marinading in:] the Kool-Aid' of the securities traders (WSJ is an editorially conservative paper, 1st, and an essential source of in-depth media coverage of the securities trading markets and fora, to boot). I am not opposed morally to gambling or to speculative trading of securities instruments, I just think it should be mentioned, including in 'The Greatest Trade Ever.' As an English Lit grad I can't but mention that the book could have used an editor -- some clunky and ambiguous passages required a re-reading (or two); I had to machete through some errors of grammar and syntax which I wouldn't have expected from a professional writer. I cannot reject this book, nonetheless, as I mentioned at the top -- if you don't sweat the absurdity of the subprime loan meltdown meaning a few smart hedge fund traders buy new estates in the Hamptons or put generations of their progeny through the most expensive schools in the world, if you work as or with a securities trader[s:], or if you're among the fortunate few who cannot fathom the vagaries of living on annual income of less than $300,000.00, you'll be engaged by this book and its complementary trajectories of (1) financial crisis incoming and (2) desperate hedge fund managers and high-end traders hanging on to and adding to sizable trading positions /CDS obligations which many could understand but a lot fewer bought into. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Maureen Shillington | 2/10/2014

    " Really hard to understand if you are not an MIT grad. An interesting insight into creating a reality in the financial world. Great characters! "

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