Don't call it a comeback: Steve Cohen rebrands online

Point 72 Asset Management.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Point 72 Asset Management.

An image of Point72's website, www.point72.com, from Feb. 3, 2015. Point72 is a family office for billionaire investor Steven A. Cohen.

For years, billionaire investor Steve Cohen assiduously avoided the press. Few photos of him existed, and the standard response to a media inquiry—like many other hedge funds—was "no comment." SAC Capital Advisors' rudimentary chess-themed website, www.sac.com, listed a few jobs and was otherwise restricted to clients.

Not anymore.

The latest effort by legally beleaguered Cohen to rebrand himself is www.point72.com, a glossy website for his personal money management firm, Point72 Asset Management. Launched Monday, it emphasizes ethics, community engagement and career opportunities—a clear effort to move beyond SAC's guilty plea to criminal insider trading charges and $1.8 billion in fines.

"Point72.com more formally introduces the firm, our businesses and our senior leadership to the world," spokesman Mark Herr said in an email explaining the move. "The site announces what we at Point72 stand for—ethics, excellence, opportunity, innovation and leadership—and allows us to define ourselves, rather than be defined by others."

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Point72 manages about $10 billion in assets, the vast majority of it Cohen's, plus some employees. The shop, which focuses on trading stocks, made about $3 billion gross of expenses in 2014, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The site includes a biography of Cohen and a quote from him on a "Mission & Values" page: "I want Point72 to be a great firm with a strong sense of community that always acts with integrity and professionalism and sets the standard for ethical behavior."

The site also notes Cohen's charitable work through the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation and describes the family office as the future "destination for the industry's best and brightest talent."

Point72 doesn't appear to have a recruiting problem; the family office hired 78 analysts last year and launched a campus recruiting program for undergraduates, according to Herr.

There is no mention of insider trading issues on the site. Cohen's problems in that regard amounted to arguably the largest scandal in the hedge fund industry's history.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara described "pervasive and unprecedented institutional misconduct" at SAC in a statement in November on the hedge fund firm's guilty plea

The new site does include a biography of former government prosecutor Vincent Tortorella, Point72's new chief compliance and surveillance officer, whose focus is on "improving the monitoring of contact and information flow."

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Tom Walek, president of capital markets and financial services at communications firm Peppercomm, said the website is no panacea.

"It's clear that Point72 and its founder need to rebuild their reputation, but that's just asking too much of a website. It needs to be part of an overall strategy and show real change," Walek said.

"The new website cherry-picks information," he added. "A bio that simply ignores the recent past is not going to fool anyone."

Point72 spokesman Herr told CNBC.com in response that "we are firmly aware of our past and have embraced a transformation and renewal of the firm. We are not in denial."

Others were more positive.

"There's already an awareness of what occurred in the past. This website is about the future," said Mitch Ackles, CEO of Hedge Fund PR, a public relations firm.

Ackles praised the new site for its openness and positive messaging. "It's a turning point," he said.

Christina Bertinelli, a senior partner at digital reputation management firm Lumentus, said the rebranding effort may work given sustained effort.

"The new Point72 website is a good first step in developing its reputation," Bertinelli said.

She said a model for success akin to SAC was General Motors Acceptance Corp., or GMAC, which worked to shed a negative image from a government-led financial crisis bailout by becoming Ally Financial.

"Point72 is a new home, albeit at the same address, but it will need aggressive reinforcement and strengthening to shift the digital footprint and overall reputation for Point72," Bertinelli said.

Part of SAC's settlement with the government was to stop managing external capital. There's been a rumor of Cohen working to change that, but spokesman Herr insisted such a motive was false.

"What Point72.com is not is a harbinger of outside investors," Herr said in an email. "We enjoy being a family office and have no plans to seek outside capital."

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