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Meet Mark Spitznagel, Ron Paul's L.A. hedge-fund guy

Ron Paul Continues Iowa Campaign Tour

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LE MARS, IA - DECEMBER 30: Republican presidential hopeful U.S. Rep Ron Paul (R-TX) speaks during a town hall meeting at the Le Mars Convention Center on December 30, 2011 in Le Mars, Iowa.

Ron Paul — Republican presidential candidate, GOP congressman from Texas, father of Sen. Rand Paul, libertarian, and dogged foe of the Federal Reserve — is touching down in Los Angeles on March 20 for a fundraiser. If you think Paul, with his desire to return the U.S. to the gold standard (bimetalism, actually, using gold and silver) and his tendency to subject Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to lengthy disquisitions on inflation, is a litle bit different, just wait until you get a dose of the guy who's hosting this Bel Air shindig, at the former residence of Jennifer Lopez.

He's Mark Spitznagel, a very successful hedge-fund manager whose Universa Investments is based in Santa Monica. There are hedge-fund managers and there are hedge fund managers. Spitznagel is definitely in the latter category. He plies his trade in an exotic corner of the industry, making huge bets on statistically improbable events, now colloquially known as "black swans," after the 2007 book of the that title by Nassim Taleb.

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Dodgers sale: The final bidding is shaping up as expected

Dodger Stadium Bleachers

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The bleachers stand empty at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.

UPDATE: The Disney Family is also still in the running. So a total of five known and two unknown bidders.

The number of bidders for the bankrupt Los Angeles Dodgers has been narrowed to six, according the L.A. Times. Two are mysterious and unknown. But five aren't. They are:

Steven Cohen, a secretive Connecticut hedge fund billionaire who is probably the richest guy still in the running, with a personal net worth estimated at $8 billion

Tom Barrack of Colony Capital, a $30-billion L.A.-based private equity firm

Magic Johnson, in partnership with Stan Kasten

Jared Kushner, the boy-wonder son-in-law of Donald Trump who has so far distinguished himself by running a money-losing weekly newspaper, the New York Observer

•The Disney Family (haven't heard much about this bid, to be honest)

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Stratfor WikiLeaks: My, how you've grown!

Back in the 1990s, I spent some time writing about military affairs and policies, with a focus on the future of warfare. My research and reporting led me naturally to a then-new firm called Stratfor, whose CEO, George Friedman, had written a book with (to me) the catnippy title, "The Future of War." In those days, Stratfor provided analysis on geopolitical events and various flavors of outlook that was basically free. (You can watch Friedman doing his thing, talking about another book in 2009, in the video above.)

Strafor was a feast. When 9/11 happened, I was living in New York. That entire morning, as I watched the Twin Towers burn and then fall, I monitored Stratfor's website for information. Gradually, however, Stratfor's profile became more elevated and the company began charging for its services. At which point I drifted away. 

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Dodgers sale: Rick Caruso and Joe Torre yank bid over parking lots

Dodger Stadium Bleachers

pvsbond/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

The bleachers stand empty at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.

Parking lots? Yes, parking lots. The Dream Team of bidders for the bankrupt Los Angeles Dodgers, developer Rick Caruso and former Dodgers manager Joe Torre, has dropped out of the final rounds of bidding because current owner Frank McCourt insists on keeping the parking lots that surround Dodger Stadium.

The Los Angeles Times has obtained a copy of the letter that Caruso and Torre sent to Major League Baseball on Feb. 17. In it, they leave open the possibility of re-entering the fray. But in retrospect, we should have seen this coming. The parking lots aren't part of the bankruptcy proceeding. But it was widely assumed that McCourt would let them go to sweeten the deal. 

Of course, McCourt is, down deep, a parking lot guy. This is where he made his money, back in Boston before he came west to try his hand an running a storied MLB franchise. Caruso is also a parking lot guy, in a manner of speaking. If he and Torre had been able to buy the Dodgers, he would have let Joe run the team while he set about remaking Chavez Ravine in the manner of the Grove and the Americana at Brand, his beloved, Vegasized shopping meccas in L.A. 

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Aurelius Capital Management: The hedge fund that's keeping Tribune in bankruptcy

Mercer 19826

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Tribune Company, which owns the Los Angeles Times, has been in bankruptcy for...well, years. And according to recent reports, it won't be coming out of Chapter 11 any time soon. So what's the holdup?

Basically, it's two very large lenders versus an incredibly tenacious hedge fund. On one side, we have Oaktree Capital Management and JPMorgan Chase. Oaktree invests heavily in "distressed debt" — it has close to $30 billion of it's more than $80 billion under management tied up in defaulted or defaulting securities. According to Bloomberg, Oaktree along with Tribune's other "senior creditors" hold around $3.4 billion on a total of $8 billion that Sam Zell borrowed to buy Tribune in 2007.

For the record, Zell's buyout took Tribune's total debt to a staggering $13 billion.

When Tribune finally exits bankruptcy, Oaktree will exchange its debt for equity — an ownership stake — in the new company. To do this, they want Tribune's bondholders to effectively take a $500 million payoff, then fight it out in court over whatever is left of the "bad" company while a "good" company can emerge from Chapter 11.

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