Entertainment

The Fame-Ready Cast of the Michael Lewis Publicity Blitz


Michael Lewis’s recent books—including Moneyball and The Blind Side—have kicked up so much media attention that he’s managed to create a secondary market of opportunities in Hollywood, reality TV, and publishing for the people who appear in his stories. Last year, Jessica Pressler of New York magazine dubbed this the “Michael Lewis Effect.” It’s a recurring phenomenon, she noted, in which “the author makes his subjects into celebrities just by writing about them, endowing obscure figures with major profiles, intellectual prestige, even earning power.”

Such is the nature of the frenzy that these days people who aren’t even subjects of Lewis’s work have realized that they, too, can rush in and grab a piece of the action. His latest work, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, landed in stores this week amid much hubbub. Herein, a partial roster of the various players now vying for a chunk of the ancillary Flash Boys market.

1. Ronan Ryan and Brad Katsuyama: Maverick outsiders play a key role in the constellation of Michael Lewis archetypes. Whether it’s Billy Beane in Moneyball or Michael Burry in The Big Short, it’s the mavericks who are typically best positioned to lap up the accolades from their star turn at the center of a Lewis narrative. The central protagonists of Flash Boys are former traders at the Royal Bank of Canada who sniff out the problems with high-frequency trading and go on to launch the IEX Group, a startup designed to keep the speedy market frontrunners at bay. Already, Ryan and Katsuyama have been basking in the blaze of media surrounding the book. On Sunday night, they both got a bunch of favorable face time on CBS’s 60 Minutes. Now Vanity Fair is calling them “Hollywood-ready.”

2. Constantine Sokoloff: The New York Timesexcerpt of Flash Boys briefly introduces readers to Sokoloff, a charismatic Russian engineer born in a city on the Volga River, who comes to the U.S. and in the service of American capitalism helps design a system to thwart the high-frequency traders.

3. John Nunziata: If you can’t be the maverick hero of a Michael Lewis media blitz, perhaps the next best option is to be a villain. Yesterday, while many people in the world of high-frequency trading were grumbling over their morning coffee about the new book, Nunziata, the head of electronic execution at BNP Paribas, emerged from the rabble of critics to claim a surprise role in the Lewis drama. According to multiple press accounts, Nunziata dashed off an e-mail that was soon flying around Wall Street in which he claimed that Lewis secretly owned a stake in IEX—a claim that turned out to be false. But along the way, Lewis jumped on Facebook to deliver a social media smackdown of Nunziata. “Does his mother know what he does for a living?” wrote Lewis. She does now! And so do the rest of us. Probably just a matter of time before Nunziata gets a shot at venting about Lewis on a bigger stage.

4. Eric Schneiderman: New York’s attorney general proved to be a savvy analyst of the Michael Lewis media dynamic, immediately seizing the opportunity to associate himself with Team Maverick. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Schneiderman discussed his yearlong investigation into high-frequency trading while casually dropping the author’s first name and artfully positioning himself as a simpatico force for market stabilization in a world gone mad. “I’m a fan of the markets, but I think Michael is right, we’ve lost a lot of credibility,” said Schneiderman.

5. Steve Kroft: Kroft has emerged as the Lewis whisperer, routinely landing the interviews that kick off the author’s artfully designed press tours. It’s a great position from which to enjoy some of Lewis’s collateral cachet. Every time the author comes out swinging with a new book in the years to come, you can bet Kroft will be there on opening day, lobbing out the first pitch, as he did on Sunday night. Said Kroft, “What’s the headline here?”

6. The Magic Shoebox: Lewis reports that at the center of IEX’s innovative design to thwart high-frequency traders is a wondrous device, which its creators call “the Magic Shoebox.” According to Kroft, the device contains 60 kilometers of fiber-optic cables, resembles a box stuffed with fishing line, and has avoided being called “rubbish” by a bunch of people in the financial industry.

The big question that remains: If Hollywood turns Flash Boys into a movie, who will play Ryan, Katsuyama, Sokoloff, Nunziata, and the shoebox on the big screen?

Gillette_190
Gillette is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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