Kings, Caesars, Mob Dons. When we think of these titles we may think of power, wealth, and loyalty. To a certain extent that is true. However, what they also have in common is the struggle to keep their place at the top, how they get there and how they fall. Kings, Caesars and Mob Dons all get to the top through violence, and usually end their reigns that way as well. Through the course of their reign, they often become distrustful of even their most loyal subjects and become deceitful in order to keep everyone off balance. In the end, they are paranoid, isolated, and alone.
What does that have to do with Billions? The titles and events of the previous two episodes “The Kingmaker” and “Sic Transit Imperium”, made me think of Axe in that light. He got to the top through violence; as we learn in “Boasts and Rails” his actions during the murder and devastation of 9/11 made Axe a lot of money, and the destruction of his former company lead to the opening of Axe Capital (I write about that here). He also has wealth, power, and from many of his employees, loyalty. However, he too is constantly fighting to stay at the top. He sees the Visigoths coming, whether in the form of the government (and Chuck in particular) or other fund managers, and he will fight them all. The Axe we see in “Sic Transit Imperium” is a tired, isolated, and reflective King, wondering if it is all worth it. Continue reading ““From the Trader’s Desk” What does Axe have in common with Kings, Caesars and Mob Dons?”
I could not be happier that a game theory term makes it to the title of this week’s episode: Optimal Play. Optimal Play, also known as Best Response, is the strategy that produces the most favorable outcome for a player, taking the strategies of other players in the game as given.
Given that the entire hedge-fund industry is under siege and that he needs to adapt, Axe’s optimal play is to venture out of the city walls and straight into the NFL. We learn from his chat with NY Giants chairman Steve Tisch that Axe grew up with football on a “24-inch Trinitron knock-off” and his first ever football game in a stadium was in Tisch’s box. As Tisch shares with him that he needs to jump through quite a few hoops to impress the NFL, Axe is pretty confident about his bid and already trying to figure out where his seat will be at the stadium. Not here at MetLife Stadium, of course. NY Giants is not for sale 😀 Continue reading “Billions on Showtime, Season 2, Episode 3: Optimal Play”
Welcome to “From the Trader’s Desk” and my recap of “Dead Cat Bounce”. (I’m just going to say this upfront: I hate that term, but only because I’m a cat momma!)
We open up at the Spartan-Ives sponsored “Thought Leaders” conference, which costs $3,000 to attend. These types of conferences are common, and can be market movers. Certain managers will mention a stock they like (or don’t) and it will move the stock price as they are speaking.
Continuing the rollicking cadence of win/loss and cat/mouse, Billions picks up the pace in an energetic Episode 2.
“Dead Cat Bounce” is book-ended by a fake smile with handshake on one end and a sincere sneer and handshake on the other, going deeper exactly where we need it to go.
Axe is still a nervous cat, but a merry one, as he publically humiliates arch nemesis du jour, Todd Krakow, in the opening scene and continues throughout the episode to dig the claws deeper into the side of this twerp who tried to steal Wendy from him.
That is what you get when you try to poach Axe’s most valuable employee, Todd.
Axe starts picking on Todd’s obviously scripted speech at Spartan-Ives “Global Thought Leaders” panel moderated by Lawrence Boyd. While Krakow’s choice of poet is Pindar, Axe’s seems to be Walt Whitman (who can forget the “barbaric yawp” scene from Dead Poets Society?). Is it just me or does Wags’ smile turn to concern as Axe leaves the room saying Krakow’s “party cocktail tutor” owes him a refund?
Axe apologizes to Boyd for being a bad boy but Boyd cannot be happier about what just happened. It seems he picked the panel for its entertainment value. The street will talk about this for weeks and whoever was not in the room will make Spartan-Ives their prime broker to be able to attend next year. Axe is not happy about playing “the bull” to Boyd’s “red sash” every time. Continue reading “Billions on Showtime, Season 2, Episode 2: Dead Cat Bounce”