Saturday, November 28, 2020 10:54 pm

Covid conversations with one of America’s richest men

How a pandemic unfolds when you’re a Wall Street billionaire

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: 731;
/PHOTOGRAPHER: FRANK FRANCES FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

By Max Abelson | Bloomberg Businessweek

On the day the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, I called the richest person I know. The world was spiraling into chaos, with 118,319 confirmed cases and 4,292 deaths in at least 100 countries, and I thought someone so well connected might know what was going on.

“What the f—, I’m not worried,” he said. “I’m sure I already have it. What do I care?” His family was heading to their country house outside New York City, but he was staying put, working the phones for his job investing billions of dollars for clients. He didn’t know much about the unfolding catastrophe, which made him just like everyone else.

The next day, March 12, the stock market collapsed, ending an 11-year bull market. The S&P 500’s 9.5% plummet was the biggest since Black Monday in 1987. I called the investor back. “It’s not this panic, ‘Oh my God, the world is going to end,’ ” he said. “Everyone knows it’s over in two months.” His dismissiveness was almost eerie. “You know the world is fine.”

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