Thursday Links: Custard Ken, (More) Media Layoffs, Chainsaw Guy

The Wall Street Journal has a very good page-one leder on Ken Griffin’s giant hedge fund firm Citadel, which is not as giant as it was, cratering 55 percent last year (it’s made up a decent amount of it back this year). The Journal gets inside the company to put some color on its well-known woes.

It reports that the “dethroned hedge-fund magnate” is reduced to “cold-calling investors” to drum up business. Oh, and there’s this: “He occasionally dispatches his driver on a 200-mile round trip to fetch milkshakes from LeDuc’s Frozen Custard in Wales, Wis., near where Mr. Griffin grew up. The folks at LeDuc’s refer to the financier as “the man of a thousand shakes,” based on a birthday order in 2004 that was so big, it got shipped to Chicago in a truck.”

And the Journal gets a pretty big scoop here, though it buries it somewhat that Citadel, with just $20 billion in assets at its peak, was considered too big to fail (emphases mine):

The speed and depth of the global crisis, ironically, may have helped Citadel pull through.

So many other firms were folding that some lenders — worried about ripple effects if a giant like Citadel were forced to sell big chunks of assets into the dysfunctional markets — were reluctant to make moves that might have imperiled the firm, according to people involved in those discussions. In particular, regulators pressed Wall Street firms including Deutsche Bank AG not to make drastic changes in their dealings with Citadel, according to these people.

Good work by the WSJ.

— It was another dismal day to be a professional journalist. There was the Bloomberg BusinessWeek massacre today, with layoffs begun that will reportedly total a hundred—one quarter of the news staff. Stephanie Clifford of The New York Times writes that there may be a pattern:

“If you think about voice, they seem to be getting rid of it,” said a BusinessWeek employee who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Every indication we have from Bloomberg people is their model is The Economist, which has a singular voice, not multiple voices.”

So far the layoffs include media columnist Jon Fine and personal-technology columnist Stephen Wildstrom. This comes after the killing of the Maria Bartiromo and Jack Welch columns—no loss.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press is gutting its newsroom. Gawker has a running list of layoffs, which total at least seventy-one so far.

The New York Times posted a pretty good story today on the egregious regulatory “lapses” that enabled the bubble.

But, hey, NYT: You might want to note the political environment these regulators were working in. George W. Bush—remember him? Remember that whole ideology of deregulation thing? Remember the chainsaw guy at the OTS? It’s not a regulatory lapse if you don’t regulate intentionally.

And yikes:

Of the nation’s 8,100 banks, about 2,200 — ranging from community lenders in the Rust Belt to midsize regional players — far exceed the risk thresholds that would ordinarily call for greater scrutiny from management and regulators, according to Foresight Analytics, a banking research firm.

About 600 small banks are in danger of collapsing because of troubled real estate loans if they do not shore up their finances soon, according to the firm.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.