||Anthony Scaramucci, founder of SkyBridge Capital LLC
(Photo Credit: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg).
When it looked like Anthony Scaramucci, the founder of
fund-of-funds business SkyBridge Capital, might be headed to
the White House for a full-time job, many hedge fund industry
observers wondered what this might mean for the SkyBridge
Alternatives Conference, the annual hedge fund industry
conclave known as SALT.
After all, while he co-founded the conference with SkyBridge
partner and head of business development Victor Oviedo, the
Mooch's as Scaramucci is known – is the
face, and heart and soul, of the four-day event. Earlier this
year it was announced that Scaramucci was selling SkyBridge to
a consortium led by RON Transatlantic and China's HNA Capital
and would spin out the SALT conference as a stand-alone
business after reports surfaced that he would be taking a top
job in President Donald Trump's administration. So, it seemed
fitting that he would scale back his involvement with SALT.
Indeed, early versions of the itinerary showed Scaramucci
playing a low-key role for him.
However, the 1,800 or so people who are gathering this week
at the Bellagio Resort and Casino in Las Vegas will notice when
the panels and presentations begin on Wednesday that Scaramucci
has assumed his familiar high-profile perch, serving as
chairman of the event. This is because a job working for
President Trump didn't materialize after all.
But Scaramucci will be plenty busy in Vegas this year. He is
planning to welcome everyone and deliver the opening remarks,
head up some panel discussions, and conduct the keynote
interviews with Bill Ackman of
Pershing Square Capital Management and Dan Loeb of
Third Point. Repeat attendees will likely feel once again
that they are at a Gatsby-esque party hosted by the Mooch
– that is, when he is not hosting private dinners with
the biggest-name speakers.
That's a good thing for SALT. For months many people in the
hedge fund industry were speculating whether the event would
still enjoy the same gravitas and pizzazz of years past if
Scaramucci were no longer involved. And if you look at the
hedge fund speaker lineup, you realize this event needs a
healthy dose of glitz. That's because you probably won't get it
from the speakers.
Sure, there will be the usual big name non-Wall Street
celebrities and luminaries, such as former vice president
Joseph Biden, former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke,
singer Jewel, and former boxing great Mike Tyson. However, what
attendees won't be getting are the huge, Las Vegas' worthy
hedge fund names – the people who create the kind of
buzz all conference promoters covet, as
David Tepper did in 2014 when he memorably warned attendees, Don't be too
frickin' long right now.
This year, however, there are virtually no top-shelf
managers that are attendance and publicity magnets, the kinds
of speakers for whom people contort their schedules so as not
to miss their speeches.
Of course, these kinds of speakers don't always work out.
Remember, last year's luminary,
Kenneth Griffin of Citadel, ended up not saying anything
particularly memorable or noteworthy.
One person who could have served the dazzling-speaker role
this year is Pershing Squareâ€™s Ackman. But
his buzz-generating ability has diminished, in large part
because his big long bet on
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International and high-profile
short bet on Herbalife both wound up being big losers. Suddenly
he is not as interesting as he used to be. To wit, Ackman spoke
just last week at the Sohn Investment Conference in New York,
where he delivered a rather dry case for one of his oldest
holdings, Howard Hughes Corp. Clearly, Ackman has lost at least
some of his media mojo.
The only other sort of big name is Third Point's
Loeb. But as it turns out, Loeb's presentation is off the
record. So, you won't get a real-time account of his
presentation, although I'm sure at least one of the attendees
will "leak" his comments.
Altogether, of the hedge fund speakers at this year's SALT
event, only one qualified for this year's Rich List: Loeb. Just
seven represent hedge fund firms that rank among the 100
largest hedge fund firms in the world. Of this group, Joshua
Friedman of Canyon Partners (No. 31) and Loeb of Third Point
(No. 32) represent the largest hedge fund firms with speakers
at the conference this year.
Several of the speakers are from smaller firms that don't
have much to brag about these days after losing money last year
or posting very small gains. One panel features John
Hoplite Capital Management, which declined 6.15 percent
last year; Jason Karp of
Tourbillon Capital Partners, whose long-short fund lost 9
percent last year; Ricky Sandler of
Eminence Capital, which rose just 2.2 percent last year;
and short-selling specialist
James Chanos of Kynikos Associates, who has been predicting
China's blowup for years.
There are also fewer hedge fund sessions than in the past,
or so it seems. For me, that's a partial blessing because maybe
this year I'll have more time to hear some of the luminaries
instead of typing away in my room. (I cover only what the
hedgies have to say.)
But I'll make sure I don't say hello to or even acknowledge
the presence of Steve Harvey. Don't want to upset him and
trigger a tirade, right?