Commodity Hedge Fund Blenheim Opens Up Ownership for First TimeBy
Willem Kooyker founded Blenheim in 1989 and remains top owner
Blenheim’s assets dropped after several years of poor returns
Willem Kooyker, a pioneer of investing in commodities, broadened the ownership of his $1.5 billion hedge fund for the first time since it was created almost three decades ago.
One of the most powerful and enigmatic traders in the natural resources industry, Kooyker said Thomas Kopczynski, James Wohlmacher, Gus Rossi, and his son Terence Kooyker will join him as owners of Blenheim Capital Management LLC. Blenheim invests in everything from oil to metals and agriculture, and at its height in 2011, was the world’s largest commodities-focused hedge fund.
The ownership shakeup is the first since 74-year-old Kooyker, who retains a majority interest, started Blenheim in 1989. The changes come as the firm navigates one of its most difficult periods in its existence, with assets under management down 85 percent from a record after several years of poor returns. The new partners have long worked at the New Jersey-based company.
“My new partners will help me chart a new course for growth in an industry that has changed enormously in recent years,” Kooyker said in a statement. “Blenheim was a pioneer in commodity trading and investing and we aim to be among the leading managers in those markets for many years to come.”
Kooyker will remain as head of the asset allocation committee and actively engaged in trading strategy, according to a person familiar with the firm, who asked not to be identified when discussing internal matters.
Kooyker has gradually reduced the amount of money that he personally manages. He oversaw as little as 15 percent of the company’s assets in early 2016, down from 75 percent in the years before that, according to consultant NEPC LLC, which advises pension funds. The consultant said last year that the decrease could signal a move toward his retirement. The person familiar with Blenheim said Kooyker wasn’t retiring.
The Blenheim Global Markets Fund lost money in the three years through 2013 and again in 2015. That was a rare occurrence for the flagship fund, which over three decades returned in excess of 30 percent in several years and twice doubled its money.
Despite the drop in assets, Blenheim is emerging from the commodities downturn as one of the few survivors in the hedge fund industry. Citadel LLC, the $26 billion hedge fund run by Ken Griffin, placed its metals business under review in November, joining other commodities-focused funds such as Galena Asset Management, Brevan Howard Asset Management LLP and Clive Capital LLP in retrenching. Cargill Inc., the world’s top agricultural trader, also closed several hedge funds.
Blenheim said it’s planning to expand its product offering to “address both a growing opportunity set in the commodity markets and the more varied ways in which investors seek to access the firm’s capabilities.”
Kopczynski, 45, is a long-time lieutenant of Kooyker, while 52-year-old Wohlmacher is Blenheim’s chief risk officer and once worked at Commodities Corp., the firm where Kooyker made his name. Rossi, 45, is chief financial officer and Terence Kooyker, 33, has been trading with Blenheim for a decade.