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Hedge fund showcase event SALT looks to exit Singapore

Anthony Scaramucci and Tony Blair at a SALT conference
Source: 2013 SALT Conference
Anthony Scaramucci and Tony Blair at a SALT conference

Anthony Scaramucci, founder of $9.6 billion fund of hedge funds SkyBridge Capital, has made the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference in Las Vegas the Super Bowl of hedge fund events since it launched in 2009.

Dubbed "SALT," the May event has lured secretive hedge fund managers Steve Cohen, John Paulson and Paul Singer on stage. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Nicolas Sarkozy and Tony Blair have spoken. And bands like Maroon 5 and Train have headlined evening entertainment.

But for all of the achievement of the Sin City bash, SALT Las Vegas' little sibling, SALT in Singapore, has lagged—and this year may be its last.

Launched in 2012 as SALT Singapore and later changed to SALT Asia, the event sought to capitalize on "new opportunities ... created by the growth in the Asian markets and the shift in global trade," as Scaramucci put it May of the same year. The Singapore edition attracted about 1,000 people each year—about half that of Las Vegas—with the third installment set for Oct. 21-24 at the Marina Bay Sands hotel, a gleaming boat-shaped jewel of the city-state.

But SkyBridge has quietly communicated with conference partners that the event could be the last in Singapore, according to people familiar with the situation.

SkyBridge is considering alternate Asian locations for the 2015 conference, including Tokyo, Hong Kong, Macau and Seoul, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation.

Separately, SkyBridge is considering expanding the SALT conference brand to other countries thanks to multiple inquiries from aboard. The firm has considered or been approached by groups from Brazil, Argentina, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Turkey, Spain, Monaco and Switzerland, according to the person.

"We are committed to SALT in Asia," Victor Oviedo, partner and head of business development for SkyBridge, said when asked about a potential shift out of Singapore and into other countries. "We're always evaluating how to expand the conference. But at this point there's nothing concrete planned outside of the U.S. and Asia events."

Oviedo maintains that SALT Singapore has been a success.

The original goal was to have between 400 and 500 attendees; around 1,000 have shown up each year and the same amount is expected in 2014. Speakers last year included recent former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Jean-Claude Trichet, former president of the European Central Bank.

"The Singapore events have exceeded our expectations," Oviedo said.

(Read more: Geithner joins top table of public speakers with lucrative appearances)

Asian hedge fund industry observers say that SALT is one of the best hedge fund events in a region with few of them. But Asia can be a difficult marketplace as it's a relatively small one for the hedge fund industry.

Of $2.34 trillion in global hedge fund assets as of July 2013, just $91 billion were based in Asia, compared with $1.69 trillion with U.S. firms, according to data and news service HedgeFund Intelligence. Hong Kong is the largest Asian center for hedge fund firms, followed by Singapore.

The biggest pool of money—mainland China—is also largely out of play due to government restrictions on investing abroad.

SALT is also costly for most attendees. Tickets to the 2013 Singapore conference cost between nothing for institutional investors and $5,495 for industry service providers, according to marketing materials. Late registrants paid more, including $795 for institutional investors.

Speaking roles can cost much more. Some elite fund managers speaking on panels get in for free, but others, including fund managers, investment banks and service providers, pay tens of thousands of dollars for sponsorship packages.

One hedge fund firm was approached about packages between $35,000 and $50,000 to attend and speak in Singapore last year. The $50,000 option included three employee and six client tickets, plus a speaking role and a "VIP" evening event pass, according to an employee of the firm who asked not to be named.

Those prices are similar to Las Vegas. Hedge fund managers wishing to speak at the upcoming conference usually pay between $30,000 and $65,000 for a speaking role, according to marketing materials obtained by CNBC.com. The large investment banks and asset managers who usually take the conference's lead sponsorships are offered packages that range from $35,000 to $100,000 or more.

Top sponsors for Las Vegas this year include Bank of America, Fortress Investment Group, Wells Fargo and Paulson & Co. CNBC is a media partner for the event.

(Read more: Dan Loeb Sees a 'Huge Game Change' in Japan at SALT 2013)

Regardless of what happens with Singapore or if SALT expands to the Middle East, Latin America or Europe, SkyBridge is looking forward to Las Vegas May 13-16.

Around 1,800 attendees who pay up to $8,495 to get in inside the opulent Bellagio resort will have a chance to hear from David Tepper, the billionaire founder of $19.3 billion hedge fund firm Appaloosa Management; David Rubenstein, co-head of private equity firm $189 billion Carlyle Group; former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers; and senior Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, to name a few.

In the hallways and at poolside cabanas and blackjack tables, hedge fund marketers will speed-date with big-money investors like college endowments and wealthy families looking for "alpha," or returns above the market indexes. Attendees will be treated to talks by pop culture icons Kevin Spacey and Magic Johnson. And a slew of journalists—including a sizable presence from CNBC—will be on hand to document the show.

Hedge fund managers signed up besides Tepper include Leon Cooperman of Omega Advisors, Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates, Mike Novogratz of Fortress; and James Dinan of York Capital. Throw in political players Rep. Paul Ryan and Karl Rove; movie director Francis Ford Coppola; and a surprise big band and the SALT show is set to be a glitzy as ever.

"We're very excited," Oviedo said. "It's the best lineup we've ever had in terms of the breadth and quality of speakers and attendees."

—By CNBC's Lawrence Delevingne. Follow him on Twitter @ldelevingne.

Correction: SkyBridge does not consider whether it is invested with a manager in deciding on speaking roles. A previous version incorrectly characterized the matter.

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