Prince William and the Kings of Leon helped Absolute Return for Kids raise 17.2 million pounds ($28.1 million) at the charity’s 10th annual dinner in London last night, a sign that the hedge-fund industry continues to recover from the global recession of 2008.
The amount raised topped last year’s total by 3.1 million pounds, as more than 1,000 money managers and bankers filled a building at Kensington Palace Gardens. The Grammy-winning Kings of Leon jammed through a set of songs after agreeing to auction off a guitar to help orphans in Romania and provide medical treatment to AIDS patients in Africa.
“Together we have achieved amazing things,” Ian Wace, chief executive officer of hedge fund Marshall Wace LLP who also serves as ARK’s chairman, told the crowd. “We’ve transformed the lives of thousands of children, most of whom you never see, you never meet and you will never know their stories.”
The success of the ARK dinner serves as a bellwether for the health of the hedge-fund industry. Fundraising from the event plunged 38 percent in 2009 after hedge funds globally suffered $154.4 billion of outflows and 1,471 firms shut down, according to Chicago-based Hedge Fund Research Inc. Industry assets have since rebounded, bringing guests out in force last night to pay 10,000 pounds a plate at the dinner.
In addition to Prince William and his wife, Catherine Middleton, attendees at the charity’s 10th annual event included Moore Capital Management LLC’s Louis Bacon, Winton Capital Management LLC’s David Harding and GLG Partners LP founder Pierre Lagrange. Celebrity guests included actress Elizabeth Hurley and actor Kevin Spacey.
ARK founder Arpad Busson, 48, is founder of EIM SA, a Nyon, Switzerland-based company with $13 billion under management that invests in hedge funds. He said support from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will help ARK “bridge the generations” among influential people who are committed to charity.
“They are the next generation,” said Busson, who started ARK in 2002 with other hedge-fund managers. “We need to get young philanthropists involved with us.”
As part of the event’s charitable auction, diners bid on items including a fashion makeover by clothing designer Tom Ford and the chance for a “child and a friend” to appear in a pending movie version of stage musical Les Miserables.
The Kings of Leon prize, which will allow the winning bidder’s child to write a song with singer Caleb Followill, went for 90,000 pounds. A weekend at the Oscar’s movie awards in Los Angeles next year raised 250,000 pounds.
The Maltese Falcon, a 289-foot sailing yacht owned by IKOS Asset Management Ltd.’s Elena Ambrosiadou, fetched a total of 930,000 pounds. After the winning bidder secured a week-long vacation aboard the boat for 480,000 pounds, Ambrosiadou announced she would auction it off for an additional week.
ARK has raised more than 150 million pounds since its creation 10 years ago. Governments have provided the charity with 250 million pounds of matching funds.
The ARK gala has benefitted as the investment performance of hedge funds improves. Funds on average have gained 4.8 percent this year after increasing 8 percent in 2010 and 9 percent in 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The average fund declined 19 percent in 2008.
Last night’s event, which was sponsored by BlueCrest Capital Management Ltd., Marshall Wace, Espirito Santo Investment Bank and Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, failed to top 2006’s record. That year the ARK dinner raised 28 million pounds in the presence of attendees such as former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Madonna.