April 7, 2017 / 2:21 AM / 4 months ago

Exclusive - Billionaire investor Julian Robertson pulls plug on protégés fund

NEW YORK/BOSTON (Reuters) - Billionaire investor Julian Robertson is shutting a portfolio that let outsiders bet with him on would-be star managers and has exited entirely from former protégée Nehal Chopra's Ratan Capital Management, according to recent regulatory filings.

The closure of Tiger Management Advisors LLC's six-year-old Tiger Accelerator Fund comes after poor performance and sharp declines in assets at its underlying hedge fund firms.

For now, it marks the end of retired hedge fund legend Robertson's side-business of gathering other people's money to invest in smaller hedge funds, even though he left open the possibility of pursuing such a strategy again.

For nearly two decades, Robertson has made investments with roughly three dozen hedge funds, including a number run by his former employees, whose firms are often referred to as 'Tiger Cubs,' in a nod to the name of Robertson's hedge fund Tiger Management.

The Tiger Accelerator Fund was unusual in that it grouped six such individual funds together and allowed investors, who might not be able to afford getting into some of the other funds that Robertson backs, to track the billionaire's best new prospects. The fund gave them stakes as limited partners and let them share in the revenue.

It managed just $28.5 million of outside capital as of Dec. 31, 2016, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing made on March 30. That is down more than 90 percent from $450 million at its launch in 2011, which marked Robertson's return to accepting outside capital, a practise he had ended in 2000 when he shut his hedge fund.

A spokesman for Robertson, 84, declined to comment.

Tiger Accelerator joins the growing list of failed hedge funds hurt by investors flocking to the exits in the face of high fees and sluggish returns. Data from Hedge Fund Research show 1,057 portfolios shuttered last year, the most liquidations since 2009.

Among the latest wave of managers supported by Robertson, the reversal of fortune at Chopra's Ratan Capital Management has been particularly stark. Her fund, named after the Hindi word for jewel, grew quickly to manage more than $1 billion, with capital from a public pension fund in New York and the family foundation of Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots.

Working in the same Park Avenue, New York City building as Tiger, Ratan produced three straight years of double-digit gains until a big bet on drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc (VRX.TO) soured and hurt the fund in 2015 and 2016. The fund managed just $375 million as of Dec. 31, according to its latest regulatory filing.

Robertson has pulled out of the Ratan fund completely according to a separate March 30 SEC filing.

Most of the other five Tiger seedlings have also suffered. Tiger Veda closed down in November 2015. Cascabel Management shut down in the first half of 2015.

Robertson pulled his money out of Long Oar Global Investors LLC in early 2014, and the firm is no longer registered with the SEC, an indication that it is either out of business or manages less than $100 million.

Tiger Eye Capital, now the largest of the Tiger Accelerator Fund cohort of managers, has seen its assets drop to $923 million at the end of last year from $1.4 billion at the start of 2016, according to a recent SEC filing.

Teewinot Capital Advisors LLC decided to stop managing money for the Tiger Accelerator portfolio in the third quarter of 2016, a source familiar with the matter said. At the end of last year, Teewinot managed $154 million, up from $138 million in April 2015.

Representatives for the six funds either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.

For more on the history of the Tiger Accelerator Fund, click here: (reut.rs/2oKuIll)

Diaspora Delivers Mixed Results

Some of the managers in the fund initially posted strong performance and assets grew significantly, especially at Tiger Eye and Ratan. As a result, early investors in the Tiger Accelerator Fund appear to have made money. As of August 2015, about $15 million has been paid out by Tiger Accelerator to investors from their minority stakes in the underlying hedge funds, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

A more up-to-date figure was not available. The fund has been run day-to-day by Chief Investment Officer Gil Caffray and President Alex Robertson, Julian's son.

Julian Robertson's personal wealth continued to climb even as the Tiger Accelerator Fund has stumbled. Forbes puts his net worth at $3.8 billion, up from $3.4 billion in 2015 and $1.5 billion in 2000.

Robertson had more than $230 million invested with the six newcomers in the Tiger Accelerator Fund in January 2011 before raising outside capital with the help of Morgan Stanley marketers, according to fund materials seen by Reuters.

While many members of the Tiger diaspora boast strong long-term results, some have struggled lately.

Tiger Global Management, led by Robertson protégé Chase Coleman, lost 15 percent last year. This year the firm's hedge fund is making money again, having returned 13.5 percent in the first quarter, an investor said.

Another Tiger-seeded firm, Hound Partners LLC, ended 2016 with a 2.3 percent loss and is roughly flat this year after a 1.1 percent gain in March, an investor said. And Viking Global Investors, led by former Robertson deputy Andreas Halvorsen, ended 2016 with a 4 percent loss, but is up 4.9 percent this year, an investor said.

Representatives for those funds declined to comment.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Lawrence Delevingne; Editing by Bill Rigby

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