I first came across Zero Hedge blog about eight years ago when desperate for something to write about. Drudge linked to a story about the Greek debt crisis that had an interesting take at the time: that German banks were engineering an existential crisis for the EU to increase their power. Just last year, the documents proving that point of view became public.
The mix of tacky, sensationalist headlines and hard-headed market news was perfect for a writer looking for something that non-Wall Street types would find interesting. Over the years, I’ve referenced it often.
The blog is written by “Tyler Durden” — a nom de blog taken from the film Fight Club. And like Durden, the blog is irreverent and revolutionary. Over the years, the blog grew into a Wall Street powerhouse, and Durden into something of a folk hero.
But it turns out that Tyler Durden is actually three people and two of them are Wall Street players.
Following an acrimonious departure this month, in which two-thirds of the trio traded allegations of hypocrisy and mental instability, Lokey, 32, decided to unmask himself and his fellow Durdens.
Lokey said the other two men are Daniel Ivandjiiski, 37, the Bulgarian-born former analyst long reputed to be behind the site, and Tim Backshall, 45, a well-known credit derivatives strategist. (Bloomberg LP competes with Zero Hedge in providing financial news and information.)
In a telephone interview, Ivandjiiski confirmed that the men had been the only Tyler Durdens on the payroll since Lokey came aboard last year, but he criticized his former colleague’s decision to come forward.
The thinking from the other two Durdens: why mess with success? The origin of the Durden pseudonym drove the philosophy of the website:
The site’s ethos is perhaps best summed up by the tagline at the top of its homepage, also borrowed from Fight Club: “On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” A paean to populism, the 1999 film is filled with loathing for consumerism and the financial system. Brad Pitt portrays Tyler Durden as hell-bent onbringing down the corrupt system of the global elite—an attitude often reflected in Zero Hedge’s content.
With that in mind, the website has argued that “pseudonymous speech” is necessary amid an atmosphere of stifled public dissent—hence the “Tyler Durden” alias was born. In earlier years, Durden was joined by “Marla Singer,” another Fight Club character, as one of the site’s most prominent authors.
Colin Lokey was dissatisfied with the direction the site had taken — namely, emphasizing the sensational over news:
Despite the compensation, he contends that he left because he disagreed with the site’s editorial vision. “Reality checks are great. But Zero Hedge ceased to serve that public service years ago,” Lokey wrote. “They care what generates page views. Clicks. Money.”
Zero Hedge founder Ivandjiiski defended the site, adding that it’s designed to be a for-profit entity. “Ultimately, the website makes money, and it’s profitable, which is also why we’ve never had to seek outside funding or any outside money—our only revenue is from advertising, always has been since day one,” he said. “Obviously, every publisher’s mission is to maximize revenue and page views, and we think that we do it in a way that is appropriate.”
Lokey was the true believer of the bunch and says he was forced to write good things about Hezbollah, Putin, Assad, and Trump while denigrating Obama and Kerry. The latter two are easy targets, but as for a pro-Putin or pro-Assad slant I never caught it.
Where the site goes from here is anyone’s guess. But the fact that the mysterious Tyler Durden is no longer anonymous will take some of the mystery out of the blog.