Unstructured Finance

Sotheby’s and a tale of two hedge fund managers

Hedge fund manager Steve Cohen’s reported plan to sell a number of valuable artworks may not only deliver a nice chunk of change for the Wall Street mogul, it may also provide gains for another rival manager.

Cohen is selling several high-profile artworks from his art collection, according to a story Monday in the New York Times, and he has given the task of selling the works to Sotheby’s – the 269-year-old auction house currently in the firing line of activist Daniel Loeb.

Loeb’s hedge fund owns 9.3 percent of Sotheby’s, making his New York-based Third Point the majority shareholder. Loeb wants the company to revamp and overhaul many of its operations and has demanded the resignation of the current CEO William Ruprecht. Sotheby’s has called Loeb’s actions “incendiary and baseless.”

Among other things one of Loeb’s major criticisms of the company is its approach to the contemporary and modern art market. In his early October missive to Ruprecht he wrote:

In particular, we are troubled by the Company’s chronically weak operating margins and deteriorating competitive position relative to Christie’s, as evidenced by each of the Contemporary and Modern art evening sales over the last several years.

Daniel Loeb surfing to the top of the hedge fund charts again

Something must be in the water over at 399 Park Avenue, where Daniel Loeb’s hedge fund Third Point is headquartered. His Third Point Ultra fund has already gained 12.42 percent this year through the 13th of March, according to data from HSBC’s Private Bank.

The portfolio added 3.3 percent alone between March 1 and March 13. By comparison, hedge funds have returned about 4 percent year-to-date, according to HSBC.

The roughly $1.7 billion Ultra portfolio is a levered version of the firm’s flagship Offshore fund, which manages about $5.7 billion and has gained 8.5 percent over the same period.

Daniel Loeb goes long Chesapeake bonds; leaves activism to others

Daniel Loeb, who runs $8.7 billion at his hedge fund Third Point, has been an opportunistic buyer in the bonds of Chesapeake Energy, the embattled natural gas producer, according to sources familiar with the matter.

But Loeb, known to rattle the cages of companies for years (see: war with Yahoo), isn’t piggybacking on Carl Icahn’s or O. Mason Hawkins’s activist role in Chesapeake, demanding changes in management or the overhaul of its business practices.  Indeed, all the elements are there for a veteran agitator like Loeb, as Chesapeake has been embroiled in scandal over a controversial investment program involving CEO Aubrey McClendon.

But the New York-based hedge fund manager, who told his investors in June that Chesapeake is now his fund’s fourth largest position, could simply be making a straight investment play and leaving the rest to Icahn and Hawkins. Imagine that?

Dan Loeb looks to the east

By Matthew Goldstein

Is hedge fund manager Dan Loeb considering planting his Third Point flag somewhere in Asia?

A person close to the New York-based fund says Loeb has no plans to open an outpost in Asia. But investors familiar with Third Point are fueling speculation that Loeb may be considering doing that at some future time.

The speculation about Loeb’s interest in Asia may be the result of a two-week tour Loeb took of China and Hong Kong earlier this spring. The visit was part vacation/part educational for Loeb.

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