Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hedge Funds: SALT Conference Losing Luster

I don't think we even covered it this year although I did look at Chanos on Tesla.
He was early.

From Institutional Investor, May 29:

The SALT Conference, long the premier gathering of the hedge fund industry, lost a little of its luster this year
As he took the stage to deliver the opening remarks at last month’s glitzy SkyBridge Alternatives Conference in Las Vegas, Anthony Scaramucci seemed subdued.

That’s not an attitude typically associated with the voluble hedge fund impresario, who’s known as a consummate networker, industry cheerleader, and pitchman extraordinaire. Scaramucci, founder of the funds-of-hedge-funds firm SkyBridge Capital, has always served as ringmaster of the annual event, known as SALT.

But his heart didn’t seem to be in it this year. He had hoped to be ensconced in the White House by now, having been offered a position as special adviser to the president back in January. The offer prompted him to sell a majority stake in SkyBridge to a consortium led by Chinese conglomerate HNA Capital and RON Transatlantic, with the SALT Conference to be spun out as a separate business. But a few weeks later, the offer was rescinded and Scaramucci was out of a job and back on the SALT itinerary, to his admitted disappointment.

“I didn’t expect to be here,” he told attendees at the start of the conference, noting that things hadn’t worked out quite the way he’d planned but that he intended to bounce back professionally. It was a surprisingly personal address, and Scaramucci seemed to recognize the awkwardness. “You guys are a lot cheaper than my therapist,” he joked — the first of many self-deprecating cracks he made throughout the conference.

Scaramucci’s downbeat mood pervaded the gathering of approximately 1,800 hedge fund managers, investors, bankers, lawyers, and accountants, in stark contrast with earlier years, when SALT hummed with electricity. Even in a conference circuit known for high-end events at Ritz-­Carltons and on tropical islands, SALT always stood out. It burst onto the scene — and into Las Vegas’s swank Bellagio hotel and casino — in 2009, within months of the nadir of the financial crisis. SALT launched at least partly as a gilded middle finger to politicians who trashed hedge funds after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

The conference embraced the hedge fund industry stereotype and cranked it up to 11: The most brilliant minds in finance, the most powerful people in politics, and the most in-demand celebrities convened for three days of exclusive dinners, high-stakes gambling (both financial and literal), nightclub after-parties, and high-octane political fundraising. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush spoke there, and pop sensations like OneRepublic and Maroon 5 played private concerts for attendees. SALT was where the most exclusive managers came to mingle with the big money, politicians came to grovel before potentially election-changing donors, and all came to be entertained by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Both sponsors and attendees paid steep entry fees so as not to miss out on the action.

That may be changing.
At this year’s confab, held in mid-May, former vice president Joe Biden delivered a keynote address, as did ex–CIA director John Brennan, while DC strategists Karl Rove and Donna Brazile duked it out on a panel. Game-show host Steve Harvey regaled guests with showbiz yarns over lunch; ’80s hit machine Duran Duran played for an adoring middle-aged crowd; comedian and Saturday Night Live legend Dana Carvey performed during an afternoon session; singer Jewel delivered an inspiring motivational talk.

And of course, many of the usual hedge fund legends were on hand. Third Point founder Dan Loeb and Pershing Square Capital founder Bill Ackman delivered keynote addresses, while the infamous Steve Cohen (of SAC Capital Advisors and now Point72 Asset Management) was spotted at a private dinner and at the Bellagio craps tables. Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke prognosticated on markets in an early session. Guests dined on miso-glazed sea bass and grilled filet of beef while a SWAT team of stylists delivered salon-style blowouts to anyone who might need grooming after taking the free flywheel or extreme boot camp classes....MUCH MORE