Vinik Hedge Fund Recruits Top-Ranked Manager From Nuveen

Jeffrey Vinik, the former Fidelity Investments stock picker turned hedge fund manager, hired David Iben, a top-performing stock picker who heads Nuveen Investment Inc.’s Tradewinds affiliate.

Iben will leave in June to join Vinik Asset Management LP, and will be succeeded by Emily Alejos and Andrew Thelen as co-chief investment officers, Kathleen Cardoza, a spokeswoman for Chicago-based Nuveen, said yesterday in an interview. Iben wasn’t immediately available to comment, she said.

Like Vinik, who started his Boston-based hedge fund in 1996 after leaving Fidelity, Iben made his name in the investment business managing mutual funds. His $2 billion Nuveen Tradewinds Global All Cap Fund, which invests in stocks all over the world, advanced 8.1 percent over the past five years, beating 99 percent of rivals, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Paul Hechmer, another top-ranked fund manager at Nuveen, resigned in 2009 in a disagreement with the firm’s decision to open a half-dozen investment products. Hechmer has since started his own company, called Del Rey Global Investors LLC.

Cardoza said Tradewinds has a “deep team” and an investment process that is driven by analyst research. Alejos and Thelen have each been at the Tradewinds unit for more than five years, Cardoza said.

Nuveen was taken private for $5.6 billion by buyout firm Madison Dearborn Partners LLC in 2007.

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Nuveen, whose investment affiliates include NWQ Investment Management and Santa Barbara Asset Management, oversees about $230 billion in mutual funds, closed-end funds and institutional accounts. The Tradewinds unit, which was started in 2006 to invest in global stocks of all sizes, manages about $34 billion.

Iben also manages the $3.2 billion Nuveen Tradewinds Value Opportunities Fund, which invests primarily in U.S. stocks and returned an average 6.9 percent annually to beat 98 percent of peers over the past five years.

Iben’s investment style at Tradewinds involves buying shares of companies he deems as undervalued, based on metrics such as earnings and cash flow. He is known for eschewing market benchmarks when building portfolios. His Global All-Cap fund had 17 percent of its assets in metals and mining companies such as Newmont Mining Corp. and Barrick Gold Corp. as of Feb. 29, according to the firm’s website.

A native of Washington, D.C., Iben’s family moved to California when he was 7. He started his investment career after earning a Master of Business Administration from the University of Southern California, and got his start managing money at the investing unit of Los Angeles-based insurance company Farmers Group Inc. before joining Nuveen in 2000.

Vinik ran Fidelity’s Magellan fund for four years between 1992 and mid-1996 and is known for making big moves and against-the-grain bets, including an ill-timed decision in 1996 to buy U.S. Treasuries.

Mark Hostetter, chief executive officer of Vinik Asset Management, declined to comment.

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