Alexandra Lebenthal, CEO of financial firm Lebenthal & Co., just published her first novel, The Recessionistas, about Wall Street elites coping with the great economic downturn. Let's meet John Cutter, the sort of hedge fund jerk we love to hate.
Here's an excerpt from Lebenthal's book in which we're introduced to Cutter, one of the characters who is trying to muddle through the hard times. He's divorcing his spendthrift wife and dealing with a lot of stress, but that doesn't stop him from spending money on designer clothes and partying all weekend in the Hamptons.
"You are not getting one FUCKING penny more of MY money. It's MY money, not yours, not ours, MINE. I made it—you only lay there. Can you get that through your Botoxed head, you fucking bitch!?"
And with that, John Cutter, rather calmly, slammed the phone down on Mimi, his soon-to-be, though not soon enough, ex wife, once-upon-a-time college sweetheart, and mother of his three children.
John Cutter was used to dealing with people in whatever way he chose to, which usually meant cursing, screaming, or on occasion, throwing things at them. This morning he was in no mood to be even remotely charitable. Mimi had made it her life's goal over the last 18 months to suck out of him whatever money she hadn't already spent during their marriage and the financial crisis had been keeping in step with her. Both had turned up the heat over the summer without a break. John, who always had a knack of finding his way out of trouble, felt as if he were fresh out of rabbits this time.
He had hoped the last two weeks of the summer would give him time to relax. In earlier years, it would have been a quiet time, but for the second summer in a row it was anything but. When he wasn't on the phone or his Blackberry dealing with work, he was doing the same with his divorce lawyer.
Under the terms of the separation agreement Mimi had the use of their 12,000 square foot home on Fordune Drive in Water Mill. Fordune was a gated enclave, with a limited number of mansions created from the 235-acre former estate of Henry Ford II, each with its own deeded ocean access. The Cutters' had bought the house in 2000 and named it "Casa de Cutter." Mimi had insisted on living there while the divorce was going on and John, with no strong feelings about being in the house, gave in on that one. For that matter, he thought it would be better to be in a different town altogether, and so this year John was in a 3 bedroom summer rental in Southampton, for which he hadn't thought twice about paying $175,000.
In reality he wasn't likely to see her around anyway. Since their separation he had happily left their "domestic" life behind. No more dinner parties with three or four couples where the conversation was inevitably dominated by the women talking about spending their husbands' money. No more Saturday night benefits for god-knows-what cause held at oversized mansions where numerous photographers were waiting to document their every drink. And thankfully no more of what he detested most, the interminable cocktail parties in stores, where somehow Mimi always ended up spontaneously buying something unnecessary, that usually cost thousands of dollars.
This summer, however, John was in a spiral of partying at night followed by golf during the day. He usually took a late afternoon helicopter on Friday afternoons, (Thursday night if he could), arriving from the City in less than 30 minutes, and headed right out to one of the clubs like The Pink Elephant in Southampton where he hooked up with some of his hedge fund buddies who were also "between wives" or who had never married.
Usually within a few minutes of arriving they were able to find several women looking for men rich enough to shell out $1,000 for table service. These women were fully prepared to return the favor with whatever was desired at the end of the night. It wasn't a problem with John, because at 48, unlike other men who had passed into middle age, he still was intensely good looking: blond hair, piercing blue eyes that made most women's stomachs do a little flip-flop when he looked directly at them, an amazing smile that curved up on one side, and a body that had benefited from years of the most expensive and sought after personal trainers, from Radu to David Kirsch.
Aside from his physical good looks, John also had the most important feature of all—he looked rich from his Tod's driving shoes, Paul Smith shirts, Hermes belt, and APC jeans faded just so, and his Patek Philippe watch that cost $96,000. It was something you couldn't put your finger on, but was immediately noticed, especially by women on the look-out who were immediately drawn to him.
He often came to the next morning, the sun streaming into the bedroom, his jeans, a pair of Jimmy Choo's and lingerie strewn about the bedroom—and someone lying next to him. One Saturday morning there were even two women in his bed with him. (He hoped that together they might equal his age.) They hadn't even gotten back to the house until 2:00 AM and then done lines until 4:00. He woke up at 11:40, remembering that Mimi was due to drop their five year old, Annabella, for her Saturday visit in twenty minutes. Luckily he was able to get the "ladies" out a few minutes before she drove up. That would have been a bitch to explain and would have caused no small amount of yelling and additional conversations with his attorneys the next week which probably would have cost him thousands in legal bills. Mimi and her lawyer seemed to specialize in Friday morning motions, which ruined his weekend and cost ridiculous amounts of money to deal with. Starting a new issue on Monday would take more stamina than he had. Lucille, John's matrimonial attorney, was one of the best at fighting back, but she charged through the nose for every strike.
In the midst of his divorce woes, the reality was that John was more than content when it came to his current romantic activities. He wasn't looking for anything more than a good fuck, end of story. Thinking of this reminded him to be sure that Richie had taken care of getting rid of Amanda while he was out last week. Their affair had been fun but he really didn't need her moping about the office pining to be the next Mrs. Cutter. It was also safe to say that even if the markets had been better, Amanda was clearly way too focused on him, than in marketing his fund to investors. He was going to be on his own for a long time, perhaps forever—and that was fine with him.
[Excerpt republished with permission from the author and Grand Central Publishing.]