Phil Falcone's fall to earth

October 29, 2009  

A wildly successful bet on subprime mortgages put Harbinger on the map, but big losses last year are forcing Phil Falcone to rebuild.

By Britt Erica Tunick

In late 2006, Phil Falcone joined a handful of hedge fund managers in making what turned out to be a well-timed bet against the housing market. Not only did that wager send his flagship hedge fund returns soaring the next year, it also transformed Falcone into a hedge fund rock star. Seemingly overnight, the once-obscure distressed fund manager became one of the industry's most recognizable names.

With billions of dollars at his disposal, Falcone's Harbinger Capital Management grew bolder, as evidenced by an early 2008 activist play for the New York Times Co. A 19% stake in the celebrated newspaper company not surprisingly drew media scrutiny, as did his personal life, including the increasingly public profile of his wife—a former model—a pet potbellied pig and the purchase of a pricey Manhattan double-wide limestone townhouse once owned by former Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione. By November 2008, it...


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