If you are a very wealthy American family, what is the probability that you have lost money and/or sleep in the past year or so from one or more of the following:
1) A blown-up hedge fund or PE fund owned by one of the large investment banks and marketed to you through its private bank.
2) Bernard Madoff and his feeder funds.
3) Stanford Financial.
4) The UBS offshore tax scandal.
My guess is that if you're in one of the wealthiest households in the country (the top tenth of one percent, i.e. the top 100,000 households), odds are good that you've been touched by at least one of these events.
I started this blog in March of 2008, and one of my biggest decisions was what to call it. I decided on the term "Consigliere" for several reasons:
1) It's catchy and Google-friendly.
2) In Italian the term simply means "one who gives advice," and that's what I intended this blog to do. I pictured myself as an advisor to a family of means that wished to grow and preserve its wealth by choosing competent outside money managers. I'm not Italian but using a foreign term had an old-world appeal for me. "The Hofjude" would have been more accurate--I've got a few of those in my family tree--but I wanted to be ecumenical. "The Investor's Advisor" would have been boring.
3) Most of my readers are from the English-speaking countries. When they think of the term consigliere they don't think "one who gives advice." Neither do I. When we think of the term, we of course think of The Godfather, the book and the movies (even the third one). This is what I really wanted to convey: The Godfather needed a consigliere because his world was a very dangerous one, and he needed one person whom he could trust completely. As the last year demonstrates, the investment world of a wealthy family is similarly dangerous. And it's not just the obvious dangers--taxes, inflation, markets, etc. Even more dangerous are the enemies who posed as friends, like the list above.
I was a little embarrassed at the time to use such a pop-culture reference in the name of my blog--I want to be taken seriously after all. But in hindsight I'm very glad I did.