Blackstone Group LP hired Anthony Maniscalco to help run a new business that will buy stakes in hedge-fund managers, said three people familiar with the plans, as the firm tackles an investing area where institutions such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. have had mixed results.
Maniscalco, 42, previously head of alternative-asset management in the investment-banking group at Barclays Plc in New York, will be part of the team that evaluates and strikes deals with fund managers, said the people, asking not to be named because the information is private. Peter Rose, a spokesman for New York-based Blackstone, which has $46.1 billion in its hedge-fund group, declined to comment on the hires.
Blackstone, the largest private-equity manager, is betting it can profit as hedge-fund founders seek to sell stakes in their firms as they cash out or plan for succession. Buying into a multibillion-dollar hedge-fund manager gives the purchaser a share of potentially lucrative fees -- typically 2 percent of assets and 20 percent of gains. That revenue can fluctuate wildly with investment returns and client deposits.
“The hedge-fund industry is tricky because of idiosyncratic risks,” said Aaron Dorr, head of New York-based Sandler O’Neill & Partners LP’s asset-management investment-banking group. “Investing in hedge-fund firms can be like venture-capital investing insofar as you will get some outsized returns and some duds.”
The risks include clients fleeing an underperforming fund or a manager unilaterally deciding to shut down, Dorr said.
Goldman Sachs, based in New York, raised $1 billion for its Petershill Fund in 2007 to buy minority pieces in hedge-fund managers. Investments in Winton Capital Management LLC and Capula Investment Management LLP, both headquartered in London, have paid off, with assets at least tripling since the bank made its purchases.
Some of the fund’s other investments have flopped. New York-based Level Global Investors LP closed a year after Petershill’s purchase, following a Federal Bureau of Investigation raid tied to the U.S. government’s broad insider-trading investigation. Level Global co-founder Anthony Chiasson was convicted of securities fraud in December.
Petershill has posted annualized returns of about 12 percent after investing about 60 percent of its capital, according to people familiar with the fund. Andrea Raphael, a Goldman Sachs spokeswoman, declined to comment on the fund.
Pension funds and sovereign-wealth funds have also taken stakes in large hedge-fund managers. Dubai International Capital LLC paid about $1.2 billion for a minority holding in New York-based Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC in November 2007, shortly before the firm’s initial public offering. Its stake now has a market value of about $403 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, as Och-Ziff has slumped 67 percent since its IPO.
Neuberger Berman Group LLC, the New York-based investment firm, is also buying interests in hedge funds. Its $1.2 billion Dyal Capital Partners LP made its first investment in December 2011 and has placed about 40 percent of its committed capital in six firms, according to people familiar with the fund.
Four of Dyal’s purchases -- MKP Capital Management LLC, Pinnacle Asset Management LP, Scopia Fund Management LLC and Halcyon Asset Management LLC -- were made at the end of 2012. Neuberger told potential clients last year the fund was “conservatively” expected to produce annual returns in the “low to mid-teens” according to a report prepared by the New Jersey Division of Investment, which oversees the state’s pension fund.
Blackstone’s hedge-fund group also runs funds of funds, which farm out money to hedge-fund managers, as well as two so-called seeding funds that take stakes in hedge-fund startups.
Blackstone will target about a dozen established firms with $3 billion to $5 billion in assets, according to the people with knowledge of its plans. Reuters reported in October that Blackstone was starting a fund to buy stakes in hedge-fund managers on the secondary market.
The firm will purchase stakes of 15 percent to 25 percent, according to the people briefed on its plans. The ideal targets are firms that have several portfolio managers or an investment committee and aren’t dependent on a sole moneymaker, according to the people. Blackstone also will seek firms that have a diversified client base, strong risk management, and insiders whose equity stakes vest over time.
To protect its investment, Blackstone will weigh in on material changes at any firm it backs, such as adding offices or closing a fund.
Its preferred exit strategy would be to sell shares on a stock exchange through an initial public offering, the people said. Even without an IPO, Blackstone could allow clients who put money into the business to borrow against their investments, or it could create a secondary market for the stakes.
The biggest challenge for Blackstone, Goldman Sachs and Neuberger may be persuading the right managers to sell.
At least 20 multibillion-dollar hedge-fund firms, including Marc Lasry’s Avenue Capital Group LLC and Jamie Dinan’s York Capital Management LP, have sold minority stakes to banks, sovereign wealth funds or other asset managers since 2005.
Some founders welcome a sale as a way to increase the number of partners at their firms and help plan for succession. Patrick McMahon, founder of MKP, said at the time of his transaction with Dyal that he sold as a way to distribute equity to other insiders.
Other founders, such as George Soros, who returned outside client money in his Soros Fund Management LLC in 2011 and turned the firm into a family office, aren’t interested in seeing their hedge funds continue after they retire.
“The hedge-fund mentality is one of big egos, and the guys who have strong attributes and look good on paper don’t necessarily want to sell,” said Karl D’Cunha, senior managing director at Madison Street Capital LLC, a Chicago-based investment bank. “And the ones who are willing to sell don’t necessarily have business platforms that are sustainable.”