Paulson Plans $1.5 Billion Private Equity Fund for Troubled Debt

Fed Chairman Bernanke At Economic Club Of NY

John Paulson.

Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg
  • Manager says investors may double their money over 6 years
  • Firm assets shrank to $16.1 billion after lackluster returns

John Paulson is diving back into troubled debt.

Paulson & Co., which made $15 billion betting against subprime mortgage bonds, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion for a private equity fund that will invest in companies going through bankruptcy, restructurings and in need of rescue financing, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg. The hedge fund manager is wagering that dislocations in credit markets, particularly in sectors such as energy, metals and mining, will provide opportunities.

Paulson, which oversaw $16.1 billion as of Jan. 1, is starting the private equity pool after a rough patch for its hedge funds. Although the money manager already makes some distressed investments, the new vehicle -- which will tie up investor capital for up to six years -- will focus on less liquid firms and co-investments. The company sees investors doubling their money during that period before fees, the documents said.

Distressed bonds have plunged 30 percent in the last three months, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes.

Armel Leslie, a spokesman for Paulson at Peppercomm, declined to comment on the fundraising.

Favorable Fees

Paulson is offering favorable fees to draw investors, particularly those who sign up for its initial phase of capital raising. The new fund, called Paulson Strategic Partners Fund, will have three years to deploy capital, but won’t charge investors fees on capital until managers put the money to work. Paulson’s company will back the fund with $250 million to $500 million of its own capital.

Assets at the New York-based company have fallen from a peak of $38 billion in 2011 as performance in many of its funds lagged behind rivals. Its main merger-arbitrage strategy, Paulson International, dropped 2.8 percent last year, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

At the end of 2014, about 57 percent of the money manager’s capital belonged to its founder, John Paulson, and others who don’t pay management and performance fees, according to a filing. Paulson pledged his personal investments in four of the main hedge funds as collateral for a credit line the firm has had with HSBC Bank USA, according to a filing in December.