Book review: “Hedgehogging” by Barton Biggs

A hedge fund launch biography by a seasoned portfolio manager and excellent storyteller.

By Stefan Nilsson

Barton Biggs ran his first hedge fund, Fairfield Partners, already in 1965 and even before that, he had worked with the legendary Alfred Winslow Jones, THE original hedge fund manager. Barton went on to have a smashing three-decade-long career at Morgan Stanley before he launched the hedge fund firm Traxis Partners in 2003. “Hedgehogging” is a modern classic when it comes to business autobiographies. It was originally published in 2006 and a lot has happened in finance and hedge funds since then, but this book has aged well. It has great stories and personal anecdotes from when Barton left Morgan Stanley to set up Traxis. We get it all: the ups and the downs, the glitz and the boredom, the investor roadshows, the sales pitches, the opportunities and the challenges, the wins and the failures and, best of all, the larger-than-life characters that turn up in Barton’s professional life. This is a great read for anyone working in the hedge fund industry or those interested in it. The book puts a human, everyday side to the hedge fund world. For those of us who live in that world, there are many things to recognise. For others, it can be an eye-opener to how things work and what one can expect if one chooses to have a career in the hedge fund industry. Barton is a great storyteller. He describes markets and investment ideas (without boring the hell out of us) as well as the grind of going around the world pitching mostly irrelevant and not-interested investors. He doesn’t hold back. He describes what he sees and feels. He tells it likes it is. There are appearances by some famous characters – such as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (yes, she too worked for a hedge fund) – in Barton’s stories. Mostly, he describes people we don’t know but his excellent explanations make you feel like you are in the room with Barton and his ever-evolving cast of characters. The hedge fund industry is indeed a circus full of characters. If you haven’t read this classic already, you should do it now. It’s a very enjoyable story of a hedge fund launch as well as a history lesson. It often reminds me of the TV show “Billions”, but without the legally questionable shortcuts of the fictional Bobby Axelrod. Barton Riggs is real, very real. And funny.

Stefan Nilsson is the Founder and Editor of the Hedge Funds Club.