Absolute Return for Kids, the charity founded by Arpad Busson, raised 14.1 million pounds ($20.5 million) last night in London, topping its 10 million pound target, as guests including Queen Rania of Jordan and rock group the Killers urged financiers to donate for children.
More than 800 top hedge-fund managers and bankers attended the 10,000 pound per-plate dinner at the former Eurostar terminal at Waterloo Station. Busson, 47, persuaded the Killers, the Grammy-nominated band from Las Vegas, to perform for the diners and an added 400 “after-party” guests, just four months after the members of the group said they were taking a break.
“It’s a good result -- in a market like this you can’t complain,” Stanley Fink, the former chief executive of Man Group Plc who took over last year as chairman of Ark, said after the evening’s auctions.
Top hedge-fund managers such as GLG Partners Inc. co- founder Pierre Lagrange, Moore Capital Management LLC manager Greg Coffey and Winton Capital founder David Harding turned out to pay as much as 100,000 pounds a table. Michael Platt, co- founder of BlueCrest Capital Management Ltd., which sponsored the event along with Bloomberg LP, pulled names of winners in a 5,000-pound-a-ticket lottery for a Marc Newson-decorated Vespa. It was won by Ian Wace, founder of Marshall Wace LLP.
They were joined by guests including Busson’s on-and-off girlfriend Uma Thurman, Kevin Spacey and Sophie Dahl. The party’s theme was “Arcadia,” with the disused terminal decked out in a forest theme while women dressed as nurses pushed vintage baby carriages filled with hors d’oeuvres such as guacamole-topped lobster “babies.”
“Let’s not beat around the bush, this is a room that reeks of money,” British comedian Steve Coogan told guests as they settled in for a meal of steak and cod.
Coogan, playing the role of his BBC television alter-ego Alan Partridge, teased the crowd that the charity was cover for “a very good knees-up in honor of a Tory government!” after David Cameron became prime minister this week. Queen Rania urged guests to dig deep for an auction to finance ARK’s projects including bolstering education in South Africa and battling diarrhea in Zimbabwe.
A Richard Prince photograph from his Cowboy series fetched 260,000 pounds, while a Fiat 500 car painted by Damien Hirst went for 90,000 pounds. A week on a private yacht donated by Elisabeth Murdoch and Matthew Freud raised 310,000 pounds.
The evening failed to top 2006’s record year, when the Ark dinner raised 28 million pounds in the presence of attendees such as former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Madonna. The event raised 15.6 million in an evening last year.
The event comes as European politicians blame hedge funds for aggravating a decline in the euro and profiting from Greece’s credit crisis. Charles Abani, who started this week as chief international adviser for ARK, said he once would’ve protested such a gathering.
“I’m used to be being outside with a placard yelling at these people,” said Abani. “But because Ark has this wonderful, powerful network suddenly magical things can happen that if you stood outside just would not be possible. There’s a massive amount of goodwill in this community and it’s about harnessing it for a good outcome.”
Ark, which was founded by Busson and other hedge-fund managers in 2002, has spent more than 140 million pounds on projects such as helping orphans in Romania, providing medical treatment to HIV/AIDS patients in sub-Saharan Africa, and financing schools in impoverished areas of the U.K.
Groove Armada, the London dance band, opened and closed the evening, as guests headed home around 2:30 am.
The ARK gala benefited after hedge funds recovered from 2008, their worst year in almost two decades. Hedge funds surged 20 percent in 2009 and are up 3.8 percent so far this year, according to Hedge Fund Research Inc.’s fund weighted-composite index.