February 23, 2024

DealBook: SkyBridge Capital Comes Out a Winner in Las Vegas

Anthony Scaramucci, managing partner of SkyBridge Capital, at the 2011 Salt Conference in Las Vegas.Ronda Churchill/Bloomberg NewsAnthony Scaramucci, managing partner of SkyBridge Capital, at the 2011 Salt Conference in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS — Three years ago, the SkyBridge Alternative Conference in Las Vegas was something of a backwater affair.

Just 400 people showed up at the first conference, which featured few speakers that anyone outside of the hedge fund industry would recognize.

Flash forward to 2011, and the Salt Conference, as it is also known, featured such speakers as former President George W. Bush, David Axelrod, an adviser to President Obama, and a roster of the highest-profile hedge fund managers in the business. The conference, at the sumptuous Bellagio resort, was overbooked, with about 1,750 people attending it. After expensive dinners at the city’s finest restaurants, attendees fanned out across the Las Vegas Strip to partake in late-night partying at the impossibly packed nightclubs in something akin to a hedge fund spring break.

What exactly accounts for the vast turnaround and quick rise of the conference? Well, playing no small role in its popularity is Anthony Scaramucci, the talkative and relentlessly self-promoting founder of SkyBridge Capital, which is based in New York. The rise of the conference in some ways coincides with the rise of Mr. Scaramucci as a media figure.

Around the time of its first conference, SkyBridge appeared to be on death’s doorstep. The fund of hedge funds business was bleeding money as the financial crisis intensified, so Mr. Scaramucci decided he would go on a marketing offensive.

“I started doing TV and it was a ‘dead or alive’ strategy,” he said. “I wanted people to know we were still alive.”

The key reversal of fortunes came last year with SkyBridge’s acquisition of some of Citigroup’s hedge fund assets. Prior to the purchase, Mr. Scaramucci’s fund of funds business had dwindled to $450 million. Afterward, the fund swelled to $5.9 billion and today oversees roughly $8 billion.

These days, Mr. Scaramucci, sometimes referred to as “the mooch,” makes regular rotations on the business news channels, his hair always perfectly coiffed, his suits somewhat boxy and baggy, his demeanor the essence of Italian alpha confidence. He has published a book, “Goodbye Gordon Gecko,” a memoir of sorts that offers the type of advice that if delivered without such earnestness might make one cringe. He also caught the attention of many last year when he infamously asked President Obama why he was using Wall Street as a “piñata.” His office is adorned with piñatas that people including Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” sent him afterward.

The contents of the Salt Conference gift bag alone say something. It contained a saltshaker, emblazoned with the word “SALT,” in case anyone missed the reference. Attendees were also given a Swiss Army toiletries bag with “SALT” stitched into its cover. Organizers dropped into each goodie bag a video of the movie “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” Mr. Scaramucci was a consultant on the 2010 film and had appeared in it briefly.

Standing outside of Haze nightclub for the “red carpet” event on the final evening of the conference on Thursday, Mr. Scaramucci glad-handed hedge fund managers, investors and others tangentially connected to the industry as they headed for the open bar. A photographer lingered nearby to capture every smile.

The venue itself was so packed that scantily clad waitresses struggled to deliver drinks to the crowd, who ignored the dance floor for the booze. Conference goers raved about their experience, which seemed as much about the panels as about the environs of Las Vegas.

Indeed, Las Vegas did seem a fitting venue for Mr. Scaramucci’s event, with its flair for promotion and bombast, as he roamed the green room with his panelists and snacked on finger foods prepared by a chef. How Mr. Scaramucci selected the chef is telling. After seeing the widely circulated piñata comment, the chef sent Mr. Scaramucci a video of himself promoting his services. Appreciating his enterprising effort, Mr. Scaramucci contracted the chef to provide food in the green room.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=bf32cd344219879ebf938fde138568dd

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