In 2008, Porsche was cruising.
The luxury car manufacturer generated $13.5 BNin pre-tax profit, and sold a record 98,652 automobiles -- a staggering $136K profit per car sold. Even for a luxury brand, the numbers seemed nearly impossible.
Upon closer inspection, $11.5 billion dollars of that profit wasn’t from selling cars -- it was from speculating on financial derivatives: Porsche was furtively amassing a sizable position in call options to buy up Volkswagen shares. As a report from the BBC put it, Porsche was “a hedge fund with a carmaker attached.” In 2008, the car business was good, but the financial engineering business was even better.