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Best Paid Men In The World

 Hedge fund managers can earn extra­or­dinary amounts of money thanks to performance-related fees.

There are some in this world who look upon bankers' pay as small change.

They wouldn't even consider getting out of bed for the $13m (£8m) Goldman Sachs says it might end up paying boss Lloyd Blankfein this year.

Such a trifling pay packet represents just a few days' work for these staggeringly well-paid financial executives.

If bankers inhabit a different world, says London-based headhunter John Purcell, "these guys are out on their own in a different universe".

So just how much do these guys - for the vast majority are men - earn each year?

At the very top of the pile, we're talking $4bn. Just in case that hasn't quite registered yet - that's four billion dollars.

This does, of course, include bonuses and fees as well as salary. In fact, the salary is a tiny fraction of their overall pay.

What can you buy for $4bn?

Montenegro. The entire economic output of the country, where 650,000 people live, is the same as hedge fund manager David Tepper's earnings in 2009

Spider-man. And Iron Man, all the X-Men and Captain America - Disney agreed a deal to buy Marvel comics for $4bn in 2009

The football World Cup. Well, not the trophy, but the tournament. Qatar said it would spend $4bn on nine new stadiums and upgrades of existing facilities to secure the 2022 World Cup

A nuclear power station. It may not be much use without uranium enrichment capacity, but then there's always next year's pay packet for that

A fleet of 2,352 Bugatti Veyrons, the world's most expensive street-legal car. And you'd still have change for 160 Ford Fiestas.

And who are these men? They are called hedge fund managers - in other words, they are investors who buy and sell all manner of financial instruments with the express aim of making money for their clients, and for themselves.

"They're a very private bunch," Mr Purcell explains, "largely because they earn so much. They are highly secretive in every aspect of what they do."

Discovering how they make their money is a little easier.

Hedge funds are actually one of the most misun­der­stood of all financial products.

They get something of a bad rap, largely due to some spectacular failures, most notably Long Term Capital Management, which blew up in 1998 and almost took Wall Street with it, and Amarinth Advisors, which lost billions of dollars in a few weeks on bad natural gas trades in 2006.

As one industry insider argues, hedge funds are worth around $1.5 trillion in total - "less than the assets that some individual banks have on their books".

Many have also tried to blame them for some of the excessive risk-taking they say triggered the global financial crisis, but with little success.

Hedge funds, then, are not the the gung-ho, high-risk beasts of popular mythology.

In fact, the majority are quite the opposite, seeking to produce what are called absolute returns - those over and above what you get from the bank, risk free - year in, year out.

In other words, they are designed to be low risk.

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