Michael Hintze, whose London-based CQS U.K. LLP manages $9.5 billion in six funds, is giving 2 million pounds ($3.2 million) to the U.K.’s National Gallery to help modernize the display rooms.
“It’s one of the best museums in the world,” says Hintze, a gallery trustee, in an interview. “I like that period of art, there’s a need, and there are good things going on there.”
To date, the Australian hedge-fund founder, 57, has given 25 million pounds to some 150 recipients, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Vatican, and charities led by Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. Hintze started CQS in 1999 after running Credit Suisse First Boston’s convertible bond and quantitative strategy team, and is worth 300 million pounds, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
Unlike the status-crazed hedge-fund millionaires roaming London’s pricey Mayfair district, the Catholic father of four lives in Balham, south London, and invests in Australian sheep farms. He wears navy pinstripes, parts his gray hair on the side, and likes Tunnock’s tea cakes -- foil-wrapped, chocolate- coated marshmallows which he bites into in mid-interview.
Hintze’s days start at 6 a.m. on the trading floor. His less-used corner office has leather chairs, potted plants, and a signed print of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whom he admires.
Born to Russian and German parents in China, Hintze left for Australia soon after and was raised by his single, secretary mother on a tight budget. He is powered by a drive to earn money -- for himself and his family, and for charity.
Hintze says he has been giving for a long time, though the gifts were smaller and drew no coverage. “Now, my salary’s gone up, therefore it’s much more,” he says. “My grandmother gave, my mother gives: There’s a tradition going back a long time.”
Might guilt explain his philanthropy? “Absolutely no guilt at all. Zero guilt!” he says with a laugh, his voice rising. “Why should I have guilt? I’ve worked for it!”
Hintze donates to institutions run by people he thinks have insight. He has given 3.7 million pounds to several of Charles’s charities because the prince “has incredible vision. The man is really very thoughtful about the world in general.”
London’s Old Vic Theatre, led by artistic director Kevin Spacey, has received 500,000 pounds. Money-man Hintze figures that if actor Spacey were in Hollywood, he’d make three movies a year and earn, “including residuals, between 5 and 20 million bucks a film. So he’s giving to London $30 million a year, probably: It’s impressive.”
Pope Benedict XVI has also seen Hintze’s largesse. Hintze has given the Catholic Church 2.3 million pounds, helping restore the Michelangelo frescoes in the pontiff’s private Pauline Chapel, and co-funding the Vatican’s 100th fountain.
Back when he studied physics, pure math and electrical engineering in Sydney, Hintze ran student government budgets, and liked it. After three years in the Australian army, he went to Harvard Business School -- where he met his wife Dorothy, now his partner in philanthropy -- and got into finance.
“It’s where the action is, it’s where the resources are,” he says. “You can’t do anything without resources.”
Though rich enough to retire, he enjoys his job, and plans to hand money down to his children. Those who pledge to give everything away are “losing the plot.”
“What you’re saying is, your children can’t handle it,” he says. “That’s frankly a wonderful failure.”
The self-described free-marketeer credits Thatcher with the U.K.’s economic prosperity -- even during the 12 years of Labour government. He has given the now-ruling Conservative Party more than 1 million pounds, as well as a 2 million pound loan.
Hintze advocates less government, even when it comes to subsidizing arts organizations. “I don’t know if you need the dead hand of government hanging over the head of these institutions,” he says.
He likes theater and opera, and avoids somber fare -- say, works by Leos Janacek -- as it “tears your soul apart” and there’s already “a lot of suffering in this world.”
What about giving to Tate Modern, which is fundraising for a 215 million pound new wing? “Not at this stage,” he says. The building “really doesn’t speak to me.”
Instead, Michael and Dorothy Hintze will fund the transformation of the display halls in the main National Gallery building, where the collections of Western European painting from 1250 to 1900 are kept. The Hintze name will go up in Room 8, beside works by Michelangelo and Raphael.
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