Amid jealous barbed praise and a certain amount of heartfelt respect, hedge fund great Stanley Druckenmiller has announced he is taking his marbles and going home. Druckenmiller was George Soros’ investment strategist when they famously “broke the pound sterling” and generated over a billion dollar profit. After he struck out on his own, Druckenmiller became widely known as one of the finest risk managers in the business, and his Duquesne Capital Management has long been a top performer. Now Druckenmiller has decided to call it a day, announcing that Duquesne will return its outside investors’ money. His announcement is seen as a bellwether “as many of his far less illustrious peers in the hedge fund world are suffering” (Financial Times, 19 August, “The Letter That Shook World Of Hedge Funds.”)
We wonder at the FT’s use of the word “peer,” which our dictionary defines as someone “who has equal standing with others…” We are aware that inexact common usage (“peer pressure,” “a jury of one’s peers”) means anyone else in the room, though they may not share the critical characteristic that sets a person apart. Such as the fact that Drunckenmiller’s hedge fund has averaged about 30% annual return going back to 1986. “Peers”? We think not.
The FT article quotes a prime brokerage executive as saying Druckenmiller “probably had an epiphanous moment” – a usage we are positively drooling over. Indeed, it is clear that there have been fundamental changes in the financial markets. It was just such an “epiphanous moment” in the life of hedge fund manager Keith McCullough that led to the creation of Hedgeye Risk Management. Whatever has driven Druckenmiller’s decision, with his track record he has earned his peace and quiet and need apologize to no one.
As we never tire of pointing out, the art of managing money is the art of having other people’s money to manage. According to the Journal, Druckenmiller “has some $8 billion of his own money to invest,” which makes him no longer a “money manager” by our definition. If lesser managers – Druckenmiller’s “peers” – are not having epiphanous moments of their own, it is likely because they can not afford them.
Chief Compliance Officer