Money managers under the microscope
Dog Days at Cerberus
Embattled Cerberus Capital Management, a private-equity firm named for the mythological three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades, has been overwhelmed by clients seeking to withdraw money from its $2 billion hedge fund, Cerberus Partners.
Website FINAlternatives said that fund investors representing 17 percent of the assets wanted to withdraw their money in December, the most recent month for which statistics are available. Now, with Cerberus’s investments in Chrysler and GMAC going bad and unemployed investors needing to tap more funds, that figure may be heading higher.
Now, according to this Bloomberg report, Cerberus sent a letter to clients warning them that it could take “years” to meet all the redemption requests, which have stacked up since the firm imposed gates in December.
“The fund’s withdrawal requests have increased substantially since the fund suspended withdrawals, partially because investors wanted to reserve their place in line and partially due to individual investors’ own liquidity needs,” according to the letter.
Like some other hedge fund firms juggling the desires of investors who want their money, with trying to avoid gutting their portfolio with forced selling, Cerberus is considering creating a special vehicle that would carve out a portion of the fund to be liquidated and distributed to investors who want out. But it also says this would not be a quick fix. Company founder Stephen Feinberg told investors the fund “Would be managed by the general partner until it is fully liquidated, a process which might take several years.”
So should Cerberus investors lump the hedge fund in with its auto wrecks? The Cerberus Partners fund lost 16 percent in the year ended last November and fell 3 percent to $1.99 billion in the first two months of February, but at least one private equity investor tells us they are not any worse at this business than their competition. Still, investors may want to tread warily around the three-headed dog when Feinberg says the current mess has created some great new distressed debt opportunities for his firm.
Cerberus spokesman Peter Duda declined to comment for this post.
(PHOTO: A Belgian shepherd practises an attack on his trainer during the European dog show in Budapest October 3, 2008. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)