Oaktree-Backed Trader Hartree Enters Industrial Metals

Hartree Partners LP, the commodity firm founded by former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. energy traders, is expanding into industrial metals.

Previously known as Hetco and co-owned by Oaktree Capital Management LP-managed funds, the firm hired former Barclays Plc traders Martin Naughton and Simon Briggs for metals in London. The New York-based merchant’s foray into metals follows energy traders including Castleton Commodities International LLC that have sought to diversify their business.

Hartree founder and managing director Stephen Semlitz confirmed the hirings by phone Wednesday, adding: “We are going to trade base metals.” He declined to comment further on the company’s plans.

Semlitz founded Hartree with Stephen Hendel in 1997. The two are credited with transforming Goldman Sachs’s presence in commodities from a small business into one of the two largest on Wall Street in the 1990s alongside Morgan Stanley. They left the bank shortly before Goldman’s initial public offering to create their own trading house Hess Energy Trading Co. LLC, or Hetco, a joint venture with the oil company Hess Corp.

Both Naughton and Briggs used to work for Barclays before the bank decided to exit metals trading. Most recently, Naughton worked at Grupo BTG Pactual while Briggs was at Hunter Valley Capital Management Ltd., according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Oaktree completed the acquisition of a stake in Hartree earlier this year, saying the investment management firm would provide initial working capital of as much as $500 million. Alyssa Linn, an external spokeswoman for Los Angeles-based Oaktree, said the company declined to comment.

Independent commodity traders have expanded in the past three years as banks including Barclays and JPMorgan Chase & Co. scaled down or exited commodities. Castleton added metals trading in March and hired former JPMorgan global metals head Peter Sellars to lead the push.