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Friday, September 10, 2010

Michael Lewis' "Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds"

"THESE Guys are Good for $250k Apiece?? C'mon" *

Like a lot of people who come to Vatopaidi, I suppose, I was less than perfectly sure what I was after. I wanted to see if it felt like a front for a commercial empire (it doesn’t) and if the monks seemed insincere (hardly). But I also wondered how a bunch of odd-looking guys who had walked away from the material world had such a knack for getting their way in it: how on earth do monks, of all people, wind up as Greece’s best shot at a Harvard Business School case study?

--Michael Lewis, "Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds"; (Vanity Fair, October, 2010)

It takes away nothing (OK, just a little) from Lewis' insight-filled take on an obscure group of Greek monks living in a remote Greek monastery called "Vatopaidi" to give away the answer.

Namely, the reason the monks warrant an HSB case study is, they amassed a real estate empire by learning comproming things about high-placed Greek officials, then leveraging that knowledge --plus possibly some bribes -- into a string of sweetheart government deals.

Not much more to it than that.

But how Lewis lays bare Greek culture, and in particular how it was perverted by the world boom in cheap credit, is certainly worth the trip.

Plus, lots of piquant Lewis-ism's like the following:

The monks eat like fashion models before a shoot. Twice a day four days a week, and once a day for three: 11 meals, all of them more or less like this. Which raises an obvious question: Why are some of them fat?

If you want to find out the answer to that one . . . you'll have to read the full article.

*That's how much Greece's $1.2 trillion national debt come to per person.

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