Some investors simply want more for their money than just more money. One way to get a nice return on investment while also rubbing shoulders with celebrities is through a firm called “Media Society.” Based in Los Angeles and launched in 2012, Media Society allows investors to be part of the thrill of Hollywood and also get as much as a 20 percent annualized return on their investment.
Wade Bradley is the CEO of this non-traditional investing platform. He was a commodities trader and venture capitalist until he got into the “investing with the stars” business. Helen Rosenberg is the company’s CFO, who used to work for Barry Diller at Universal Studios and Nielson. Bradley explained that Media Society covers the costs of production, and only will work with the best producers.
Production just finished on a film produced by Donna Gigliotti of “Shakespeare in Love” fame. The new film, “Big Stone Gap” features Ashley Judd, Whoopi Goldberg, Jenna Elfman and Patrick Wilson. At the moment Media Society has a romantic comedy and horror movie in the pipeline to production. Investors can expect big names associated with this film as well.
Investors with Media Society are individuals with $2.5 million net worth or above. They can be financial industry executives, real estate developers, or even professionals from the health care sector. The minimum investment is $150,000, with a target of 30 to 60percent yield during a 36-month time frame.
Better than the return is the added bonus of getting to go to some major Hollywood events with the celebrities and other VIPs involved in the production of the films. Media Society lets its “members” hob-nob with the stars of the entertainment industry.
Walgreens, the country’s largest drugstore chain, named Barry Rosenstein, activist investor and founder of Jana Partners, to join their board of directors. Rosenstein will also get to pick one more director to join him on the board.
The Deerfield, Illinois-based company is feeling pressure from their stockholders since they lowered their earnings forecast based on their recent merge with the giant health and beauty retailer Alliance Boots. AB runs the largest drugstore chain in the United Kingdom. Walgreens’ share price dropped since they lowered their earnings forecast a month ago. They also put on hold the decision to do an overseas reorganization which would have reduced their US tax obligation.
Walgreens stated that Jana Partners will be recommending another independent director who is not connected to either Jana or Walgreens. If another vacancy opens up on the board and Walgreens decides to fill the position, then Jana and Walrgeens must agree on the candidate.
Jana Funds have a 1.3 percent stake in Walgreens, about 12.5 million shares. If the holding falls below 6.3 million shares then, according to the agreement, Rosenstein will resign from the board.
Hedge funds seem to be showing a positively lackluster performance as summer winds down and Labor Day celebrations get underway.
A review of how some of the biggest names in hedge funds are doing shows the answer is “not too good” while, for comparison, the broader stock market arena is already surging with 8 percent gains.
• David Tepper, founder of Appaloosa Management, had an astounding year-in 2013-taking home $3.5 billion on a 42 percent upswing. This year is quite another story. So far his fund only posted a 2.3 percent gain through July, actually loosing 1 percent in July.
• Richard Perry, founder of Perry Capital, is also in a bad position compared to last year. In 2013 Perry Partners gained 22 percent, but not even close this year. The fund fell 1.4 percent in August, showing a yearly gain of only 1.3 percent through August 22.
• Trian Partners’ Nelson Peltz is doing a little better. As of August 22 his fund gained 6.6 percent, with an August gain of 1.9 percent. But compare that with a rise of 40 percent in 2013.
• You might be wondering what ever happened to Jeff Altman and his Owl Creek fund? Last year’s performance was magical, gaining 48.6 percent. This year, not so much. What used to be among the top 2- hedge funds this year fell by 3 percent as of August 22, 2 of those percent in August alone.
Just a reminder that volatility is part and parcel of investing in hedge funds, and past performance is no guarantee of future gains, even for the best of them.
London-based hedge fund executives saw their take home pay crumble as their base salaries and bonuses imploded in 2013. According to Emolument.com, a company which analyses salary levels, there has been a serious change in the volatility in what hedge fund professionals are paid, especially among the highest paid individuals.
Figures show that compensation packages have declined as much as half in 2013 compared with 2012. In 2012/2013 a managing director at a London-based hedge fund could expect a bonus of about £1,236,000. In 2013/2014 that number was slashed to £459,000. Added to the decimated base pay and managers are left with only £660,000, a decline of almost £1.
Despite this sharp reduction in take-home pay, hedge fund professionals still earn approximately triple what mid-level employees make. Vice presidents and directors of hedge funds today average about £226,000, compared to £307,000 two years ago. But this year is definitely better than last year, when the average person in that group said they took home £196,000.
Gabriel Plotkin, former employee of Steven A. Cohen, is now in the process of raising as much as one billion dollars for his as-yet non-existent fund which he has decided to name after his grandfather, Melvin Plotkin.
Plotkin, who is 35, has not discussed the reasons for his decision to name the fund after his grandfather in public, but it is definitely and unusual way to name a new hedge fund.
Cohen named what became his wildly successful SAC fund after his own initials. Daniel Loeb, also a billionaire investor was inspired by his hobby, surfing, to name his fund Third Point. This name refers to a particular place in Malibu Beach where the waves break the highest.
Plotkin’s grandfather was a small-business owner, but is now deceased. Melvin Capital is expected to begin trading this coming year, and observers of the hedge fund sector are anticipating it’s launching with excitement. Plotkin has been one of SAC Capital’s most successful traders in recent years. At one point Mr. Plotkin and his management team focused on a portfolio made up mostly of consumer product stocks whose value totaled about $1.3 billion. This summer he has been toning down his trading and increasingly focusing on setting up his own firm.
Plotkin and Cohen will maintain their relationship, just not as employer and employee. Cohen has agreed to invest as much as $200 million in Melvin Capital. It is expected that when the new fund is ready to launch that he will take his team of assistant traders and analysts with him. It is not yet known where Melvin will set up home. We will have to just wait and see.
Struggling to avoid its first-ever loss year, Brevan Howard’s flagship hedge fund was able to announce its first black month during the 2014 financial year.
Run by manager Alan Howard, the $26.5 billion Master Fund posted a modest gain of 0.7 percent in July. The announcement was made in a letter to the fund’s investors and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The fund is one of the world’s largest, and has not posted a single profitable month during the past six months. The upward movement this month of the fund will reduce the year’s losses down to only 3.7 percent to July’s end.
Compared to other funds, Brevan is doing well. The average fund across all strategies lost 0.6 percent during July. However, most funds, on average, are still up by 2.5 percent as of July.
Investors, although possibly worried, can still feel good about their choices. In 2010, 2012 and 2013 the Master Fund rose by small amounts and in 2007 and 2008 the fund posted gains over 20 percent. The fund has never ended the year in the red.
High fees and low returns are frightening some public pension funds away from hedge funds in recent days.
Among those having second thoughts about hedge funds are officials from America’s largest public pension fund, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, known as Calpers. Analysts believe that Calpers stake in hedge funds will shrink by 40 percent, down to $3 billion this coming year. One spokesman refrained from commenting on the exact size of the downgrade, but did say that Calpers will be taking a “back-to-basics” approach to its investments.
The trend to get away from hedge funds has been building steam over the past few months and years. Officials who deal with pensions for Los Angeles’s police and fire department employees divested completely from hedge funds last year. The decision was made after a 7-year investment of $500 million yielded a very disappointing 2 percent, explained Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions General Manager Ray Ciranna. Part of the low yield was attributed to the high fees paid to hedge fund managers. The hedge fund investment represented only 4 percent of the pension’s total portfolio, but the $15 million per year in fees paid to the hedge fund managers was 17 percent of the total fees paid by the pension fund.
“We were ready to move on,” Mr. Ciranna said.
Investors, hedge funds and other large speculators have cut their bets on higher prices for Brent crude oil by close to 25 percent during the week ending on July 15, according to an announcement made by ICE. Prices shrunk to their lowest point in three months.
ICE declared that managers lowered their net long futures and options positions in Brent crude to 151,981 down from 201,568. Prices fell to a three-month low of $104.39 per barrel, crashing from $115 a barrel in the middle of June.
The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) showed the same behaviors. Last week big investors shut down almost $6 billion worth of bullish bets, re-expressing the largest four-week fund exodus in history.
After about one year of negotiations Kohlberg Kravis Roberts purchased close to 25 percent of the Houston-based hedge fund BlackGold Capital Management LP. The deal is part of KKR & Co’s strategy to solidify their hedge fund bets.
BlackGold is a $1.4 billion credit firm, investing in natural resources and energy.
George Roberts, who is a co-founder of KKR and is from Houston, had heard about BlackGold and brought it into the discussion at KKR. The deal will allow KKR to share in the management of BlackGold and to be a partner in the incentive fees that BlackGold collects.
Erik Dybesland and Adam Flikerski, co-founders of BlackGold, explain that they will reinvest most of the money they will receive for the buy-in from KKR back into their funds. They say that they will continue to operate independently as well.
Entering the hedge fund sector is a way for KKR to diversify its investment portfolio, which is generally more dependent on corporate buyouts and related deals. But such deals have become a smaller part of KKR’s revenue. Analysts expect that the hedge fund industry will continue to grow as pension funds increase their stakes in alternative investments.
The investment in BlackGold is KKR’s second venture into the hedge fund space. Last year KKR also purchased a 24.9 percent stake in the Bermuda-based Nephila Capital Ltd.
Well-known for their ventures in leveraged buyouts and other private equity investments, the Blackstone Group is considering the launch of an aggressive hedge fund.
The fund will take off with about $500 million AUM and several teams of managers. Although this is a shift in strategy for Blackstone, this should not prove too daunting since Blackstone in the largest investment manager of hedge fund-fund of funds.
Blackstone says that the fund will be making “big, bold bets” and will “fund several teams of traders with hundreds of millions of dollars to place a relatively small number of large, highly concentrated wagers”.