Looking back on the start of Serengeti and Obama's hedge fund boosters

By Rob Copeland

Tue Oct 23, 2012

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Absolute Return also revisits Occupy Wall Street delivering a check to John Paulson's door.

One year ago
>> Hedge fund executives topped the list of Obama boosters, as key supporters included David Shaw, founder of D. E. Shaw & Co. and Orin Kramer of Boston Provident.

Another who has taken public positions this year in support of the incumbent Democrat has been newly-retired Farallon Capital Management founder Tom Steyer, who spoke at Obama's convention last month. Grosvenor Capital Management CEO Michael Sacks and Avenue Capital founder Marc Lasry are also listed by the Center for Responsive Politics as top Obama bundlers.

Other institutions, such as Goldman Sachs and fund of funds Skybridge Capital, have migrated to Romney and are listed among his top bundlers. A fundraiser in New York last week that featured Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan was hosted by Third Point founder Dan Loeb, John Paulson and David Tepper, among numerous hedge fund and financial services executives.

See also: Robertson, Singer among major Romney donors -  Romney fetes Julian Robertsons 80th birthday -  SEC's Kathleen Casey to chair AIMA

>> Occupy Wall Street marched to billionaire John Paulson's door and delivered a mock $5 billion check to raise awareness of the often low tax rates that hedge fund managers can pay when applying capital gains tax treatment to performance fee income.

The target on his back hasn't seemed to hurt Paulson's mood. He brought out chuckles among a group of young Jewish professionals last month when he called recent SEC disclosure requirements a complete waste of time and blasted the Dodd-Frank law as gobbledygook. Paulson's negative sentiments matched his performance, with the flagship Paulson Advantage fund down 10.53% in 2012 through the end of September (data here), compared with a 5.40% rise for the Absolute Return Event-Driven Index.

But Paulson has perhaps taken a more populist leaning in his charitable endeavors. Today  he announced a $100 million donation to the Central Park Conservancy, which he called one of the most important cultural institutions in New York. The money will finance maintenance to the park and improvements to its southwest gate. If the Occupy movement sets up shop there, they can thank Paulson for helping to keep the grounds in fine order.

See also: Paulson Europe partner Mina Gerowin retires -  All stories from October 2011

Five years ago
>> Joseph "Jody" LaNasa, once head of multistrategy investing within Goldman Sachs' special situations group, started hedge fund Serengeti Asset Management with $400 million.

Assets rocketed to $1.3 billion as of midyear 2008, but the firm quickly fell beneath that mark as the flagship Opportunities Fund was hammered with a 52.1% loss that year, compared with a 9.95% drop for the Absolute Return Multistrategy Index. It took until this year for the firm to pass back into the vaunted territory of Absolute Return's Billion Dollar Club, as it managed $1.2 billion on Oct 1, up from $853 million in April.

The asset growth comes on the back of performance gains, with the Opportunities Fund up 84.6% in 2009, 25.8% in 2010 and 1.2% in 2011. It was up 11.6% through the end of September this year. The credit-focused Serengeti Lycaon fund is up 15.20% this year through the end of September, much higher than the 6% return for the Absolute Return Credit Index.

Patrick Clifford, an external spokesman for Serengeti, declined to comment.

See also: Serengeti business development chief Matthew Root departs -  All stories from October 2007

ISSN: 2151-1845 / CDC10004H

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