Tim Rogers used to manage the MC Russian Market Fund for Valartis out of Geneva. I first met him in 2005-6, invested in his fund(s) soon afterward and love the guy as a good solid manager who — perhaps unsurprisingly for a Canadian — is also a very nice guy. He came to fund management and Russia investment in a rather roundabout way.
In the early/mid 90’s his girlfriend (he tells this story to a lot of investors, so I’m not breaching any confidences) wanted to travel overland from Hong Kong to Geneva. A large part of this trip necessitated train travel through Yeltsin’s Russia. The energy of the place then got him thinking about investing in the newly-privatized parts of Russian industry.
When he got to Geneva, Gustav Stenbolt (backed by Georg von Opel) gave him the money to do just that. He married his girlfriend, settled in Geneva, and started a roller-coaster ride. Pretty soon, he was managing the MC Russian Market Fund (RMF), the MCT Special Opportunity hedge fund, and other overall investments totalling about CHF 2 billion. As the firm grew, he was also made head of asset management, which meant he was overseeing about CHF 4-6 billion at peak.
We were invested in both the funds managed by Tim but our highest allocation was to the RMF. We loved the daily — yes daily — liquidity of that fund and the way he managed to stay under Russian radar (unlike our other Russian investor Bill Browder) while still making good money. With no leverage, only 75% of the fund invested (because he had to manage liquidity), long-only, the man ended up with +30% annualized returns over more than 10 years!
And then he just walked away. We’d heard rumors about friction with Gustave Stenbolt (not the best employer at the best of times) over firm strategy and we knew Tim was unhappy about other management issues taking him away from investment management. There were also rumbles (later proven, and still going on) between Georg von Opel and Valartis that eventually led him to carve out a large part of the investments. I think Tim just got tired of dealing with the conflict and having to deal with investors (not the best people to deal with at the best of times, more so if you have investments from shops like UBP et al) so, very politely and with minimum external fuss, he walked away.
Tim’s not hurting for money though, now running his own money out of some nice offices in Geneva. I meet him often, mostly trying to get him to start another fund. We’d taken all our money out as soon as he left and told him we’d put money with him if started a fund — any fund — no questions asked. He just doesn’t seem to want to. Among the reasons cited are:
- There’s no way he’d start a Russia-only or any single-country fund
- He sucked at fundraising and hated every minute of it
- He hated the day-to-day grind of having to deal with investors (having seen some of them, I don’t blame him!)
- He likes the flexibility of handling prop money where there are no restrictions on asset classes, liquidity, instruments, or geography
- He doesn’t think equities are the way to go now, agreeing more with my philosophy
But I get the feeling that if I can convince him that there is a need (with dollars to back it up) for his kind of investing, he might come around. I’m working on it, but it’s slow work. So if you have a need for a multi-asset-class, high volatility with high return, global (with EM bias), special situations fund managed as a managed account where the manager is more than happy to talk to you at length about his portfolio (but not bother with the other bullshit). Let me know, I’ve got just the guy for you.
- Pictet May Allocate More Money to Smaller Hedge-Fund Managers (businessweek.com)