| Sponsored poolside cabanas at the AlphaMetrix Miami 2013 Summit.|
MIAMI -- There is beachfront yoga, cocktails at the cabanas and--the ostensible reason for the trip--actual one-on-one meetings to discuss hedge fund allocations. But as more than one thousand hedge funders gathered here on opening night in the "Glimmer" ballroom at the palatial Fontainebleau Hotel for the AlphaMetrix Miami 2013 Summit, all eyes were on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
That is, at least, until the doors to the outdoor buffet flung open.
"The six people in the front are the only people listening to us," AlphaMetrix President Aleks Kins noted dryly as hundreds of well-dressed men and women exited their tables en-masse to be the first to attack the spread of rock shrimp ceviche, Cuban-style chicken and beef churrasco with chimichurri sauce.
The room of hedge fund managers, investors and service providers could be forgiven, perhaps, for their momentary impoliteness. After all, just minutes earlier, Bush had promised them the run of the place as long as they keep plowing their hard-earned dough into the Sunshine State (the cost of attendance for a service provider went for about $5,000 per person, said one attendee, and parking lot-view rooms at the host resort went for well over $400 with taxes and fees. Sponsorships approached the six-figure territory, another person said.)
"I come to thank you for making sure that Floridians never have to pay a sales tax," Bush said to rising cheers.
"If you live in a place like California, Connecticut or New York that doesn't see the value of not having an income tax, you're more than welcome to move here," added the Republican.
That idea is not entirely outlandish. Such Billion Dollar Club firms as III Offshore Advisors and Everest Capital Ltd. are based in the state, and Eddie Lampert's ESL Investments famously exited Greenwich, Conn. last year for new digs in Tampa.
Most of Bush's 30 minute speech and subsequent 20 minute Q&A was focused on energy and immigration, and he made no mention of a potential 2016 run for President. On the former topic, Bush said he was on the side of T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire founder of oil and gas-focused hedge fund BP Capital Management. Last year at the Milken Global Institute Conference and Las Vegas hedge fund conference SALT, one of the only other events to rival AlphaMetrix in sheer scale, Pickens advocated for America to develop its own natural gas reserves.
"I'm a big fan of the Pickens plan," Bush said, adding with a slight devilish look: "Let's just say it's enlightened self-interest that he's for what he's for."
By that point, his remarks had moved more towards standup than stump speech (crickets might have been heard amid the silent response to "Anyone from Chicago here? Great place, crappy airport"). Bush brought it back to mainstream hedge fund philosophy by the end in response to a crowd question on the state of the economy.
Summing up his view of government regulation of all industries, including hedge funds, he borrowed a bit from the Hippocratic Oath: "Do no harm, and chill out a little bit."