Bankers at Goldman Sachs aren’t known for their eccentricity or love of ostentation. As a team-oriented place, Goldman is better known for its conformist culture. In 2009, Lloyd Blankfein warned Goldman employees off making big-ticket bling purchases. Frayed cuffs are reportedly a source of pride among some senior Goldman staff.
In this sense, Raffaele Costa, a hedge fund manager and former Goldman Sachs employee is an anomaly. When he’s not marketing established hedge funds or launching new ones, it seems that Costa sails the oceans in his 54 metre mega-yacht dressed in a mask and wearing a long leather coat and leather trousers, wielding a samurai sword. There are photos here on the ‘Dream-Marine’ website. It’s not immediately clear that the photos are of Costa, but Dream-Marine says the photos are of Captain Magic and the Financial Times says Captain Magic and Costa are one and the same person, something confirmed by Costa’s spokesman.
Costa left Goldman in 1995, giving him plenty of time to break the mould. From Goldman Sachs, he joined hedge fund GLG, where he worked for more than 15 years before leaving at the end of 2011. Costa is now in the process of marketing a new commercial real estate fund, Tyndaris, and seems keen to play down his piratical persona. A website devoted to his charter yacht, ‘Sea Force One,’ in which the FT said Tyndaris appeared as Captain Magic, has been removed.
Costa told us his evocation of Captain Magic was a manifestation of his creativity. “I try to bring my creative side to all of my passions in life: finance, boating, the arts and the body and mind. This creativity served me well in helping to build GLG to the powerhouse it was.”
Captain Magic is both a vehicle for promoting Sea Force One and character in a forthcoming fictional book, said Tyndaris. A film featuring Captain Magic may be coming soon – a movie script and trailer are on the way. ”I believe that you can compartmentalise your life and although I aspire to add elements of creatively to all aspects of what I do, I put the success of all my companies down to the focus and commitment I am able to give each one in turn,” Costa added. That creativity is now being applied to Tyndaris.
Stuart McLaren, a partner within the investment management and private equity business at Deloitte, said there are more ‘unique characters’ in hedge funds than in investment banks. “In a large bank you’re expected to act and dress in a certain way, but in a hedge fund where your own name is above the door, unique characteristics can be expressed more strongly.”
Nonetheless, most hedge fund managers are conservative whilst at work said McLaren. “There aren’t many people who can get away with being eccentric while they’re managing other people’s money,” he said.
Nicola Ralston, founder of investment consulting firm PiRho, said hedge fund managers are being compelled to become less eccentric by institutional investors. “High net worth investors tend to be more tolerant of maverick and unusual behaviour – it can be seen as a plus, but institutional investors are less open to investing money with people who are seen as too eccentric,” Ralston said.
Other notoriously eccentric fund managers include Ray Dalio, founder of macro hedge fund Bridgewater Associates. Dalio has issued a long list of his life principles as applied to management and Bridgewater reportedly requests to see the dental records of prospective employees. Eccentricity doesn’t appear to have dented Dalio’s success: last year he was lauded as the most successful hedge fund manager in history.