Louis Bacon’s sunset ride may foretell ‘mechanized future’ of data-driven investing

The legendary Moore Capital is closing. Its founder, Louis Bacon, is reported to be riding off into the sunset.

His name was often mentioned in the same breath as George Soros, Stan Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones. Like them, over his three-decade career he helped build hedge funds’ reputation for placing big bets on big world events — profiting from predictions of war and economic meltdown. He has been described as one of the best foreign exchange traders ever. Bacon earned outsized returns from bets that stocks would plummet and oil would spike if Iraq invaded Kuwait and pulled the U.S. into war in the 1990s, which they did. He was managing $14 billion at his height, but his returns haven’t had the shine they used to.

It’s the latest in series of money manager giants taking their leave, including Leon Cooperman and Jeffrey Vinik. One imagines them joining Tom Cruise in the 2003 movie “The Last Samurai,” galloping at full tilt, swords drawn, representing the last vestige of their chivalrous time crashing against the mechanized future. 

In the movie, the mechanized future was represented by Gatling guns mowing down the warriors of old. On Wall Street, it’s quants, their data operations and passive management versus active. Think Jim Simons of Renaissance Technologies taking all emotion out of investing, dismissing “stories” about a stock as distraction, and becoming known as one of the greatest investor of all time.

The truth of what’s going on is something different.