January 2, 2009

Grand Theft! The 10 biggest winners from the financial crisis

High street retailers, estate agents, Iceland...the casualties of the economic crisis are all too familiar. But while there are losers, others have profited from the doom.

We've rounded up ten credit crunch Houdinis who've escaped the financial crisis and are laughing all the way to the ailing bank.

1. Andrew Lahde
Andew Lahde, a California based hedge-fund manager, made 888 per cent profits last year when his company Lahde Capital bet against US sub-prime mortgage assets. In September this year Mr Lahde decided he was rich enough to retire, closed his fund and released a letter, which has become an internet sensation.

The opening paragraph begins: "Today I write not to gloat, given the pain that nearly everyone is experiencing, that would be entirely inappropriate." In a petulant rant he then, bizarrely, goes on to ask the American government to recognise the benefits of growing marijuana and urges bankers to bin their blackberries and go on holiday.

2. John Paulson
Last year, John Paulson, a New York-based hedge fund manager, outsmarted Wall Street and made nearly $2 billion by betting against mortgage backed securities. Much derided for cashing in on others' misery, he has shown few regrets, telling the Wall Street Journal: "I've never been involved in a trade that had such unlimited upside with a very limited downside."

3. Barack Obama
The final straight of the presidential race has coincided nicely with the meltdown of the global financial system, providing a serendipitous marketing tool for Mr Obama. As voters watch the stock market plummet, the Democrats have offered to clean up the economic mess that the Republicans will leave behind.

4. Gordon Brown
A couple of months ago the Prime Minister was against the ropes. Now he's being lauded as the rescuer of the banks. In an article in the New York Times entitled "Gordon does good" Paul Krugman, who two weeks ago picked up the Nobel Prize for economics said: "Luckily for the world economy, Gordon Brown and his officials are making sense... they may have shown us the way through this crisis." Mr Brown's polls ratings are starting to creep up and Labour, it seems, are back in the game.

5. Ronald McDonald
Don't expect to bump into Ronald in the dole queue any time soon. As slightly pricier restaurant chains stare at gloomy sales figures, cheap and cheerful fast food joints are watching profits soar. McDonalds has seen two million extra customers a month compared with last year and is intending to create 4,000 new jobs in response.

6. Karl Marx
Dust off your headscarf, Marx is making a comeback. German bookstores have experienced a 300 per cent increase in sales of Das Kapital in recent months, and visitors are flocking to Marx's birthplace in Trier - 40,000 so far this year. Jörn Schütrumpf, head of the Berlin publishing house Dietz, which brings out the works of Marx said: "We have a new generation of readers who are rattled by the financial crisis and have to recognise that neo-liberalism has turned out to be a false dream."

7. Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase
With more than $900 billion in deposits, JP Morgan Chase is now America's biggest savings business after it bailed out the failed Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual. Despite the market turmoil, its employees, not least its chief executive Jamie Dimon, can expect a nice Christmas box this year - staff have already been paid £700m in bonuses. Even better news for Dimon if rumour is to be believed, is that he will replace Hank Paulson as Treasury Secretary if Barack Obama makes it to the White House.

8. The Magic Circle
The paperwork is piling up on the desks of lawyers at Magic Circle firms such as Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Allen&Overy since the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Icelandic banks. Some top City lawyers are now demanding up to £900 an hour to dish out their advice on insolvency and restructuring. Fraud litigators are also feeling plush, as fraudsters are easier to spot during economic downturns.

9. Emilio Botin, chairman of Santander
Spanish Santander has been fattening itself up on high street banks rather than subprime mortgages, and thanks to a tough stance on exotic investment is now the world's fifth largest bank based on the profits it generates. Already the owner of Abbey, Santander's rescue of Alliance & Leicester and Bradford &Bingley mean that Mr Botin oversees almost 25million UK customers.

10. Bart Becht, chief executive of Reckitt Benckiser
The world's biggest household detergent group and the makers of Cillit bang, Reckitt Benckiser has posted record profits of £373m for the last quarter. Apparently, as none of us can afford to leave the house or go out to eat we are staying in to clean the loo and stack the dishwasher instead.

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