Hedge fund managers faced a tricky question this holiday season: how to thank employees but not offend disappointed clients.
Despite a year of heavy losses for some in the industry, anecdotal evidence suggests holiday traditions were upheld and, in some cases, embellished, with guest appearances from pop star Katy Perry, acrobatic entertainers and at least one weekend sojourn to Florida as just some of the treats on offer.
"It's a very difficult and real balancing act," said Adam Herz, who specializes in hedge fund recruiting at Westwood Partners. "You want to recognize people for working hard even without bonuses and at the same time not offend clients when you may have lost money and taken fees."
Sliding commodity prices, a blow out in junk bonds and dramatic sell-offs in sectors such as healthcare have made 2015 one of the worst on record for the hedge fund industry. The Absolute Return Composite Index, which measures Americas-based hedge funds, is up just 0.66 percent for the year through November, the third worst performance since tracking began in 1998.
Despite the bruising year, employees of David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital were treated to a weekend at the Naples Grand Beach Resort in southern Florida this month, according to people familiar with the situation. The firm's main hedge fund lost nearly 21 percent in the first 11 months of the year, but an offsite trip from New York is an annual tradition.
John Paulson's epinonimous hedge fund firm held its holiday party at PH-D, a slick rooftop lounge on the top of the Dream Downtown hotel in Manhattan, according to a person familiar with the matter. The event venue in 2014 was the same. Many of Paulson's funds have lost money this year.
Spokesmen for Paulson and Greenlight declined to comment.
Mike Harris' Campbell, where investment performance has been mixed, has continued its holiday traditions this year. One is hosting a party for employees and their families, including a Santa Claus impersonator who hands out presents paid for by the firm, according to Adam Tremper, Campbell's marketing director.
Other traditions that the Baltimore-based firm plans to maintain include an offsite holiday event next month and apparel gifts; this year employees got a soft-shell winter jacket branded with the company logo.
"Campbell generally does a little extra for the employees around Christmas," Tremper told Reuters in an email.
Other firms weren't shy to celebrate major milestones.
Ken Griffin's Citadel marked its 25th anniversary with major parties last month. One, in its hometown of Chicago, was a black tie affair featuring singer Perry backed by costumed dancers and an elaborate lighting display, according to video clips of the event posted online. Another, in New York, featured band Maroon 5 and violinists suspended by strings. Citadel's main hedge funds have again performed well this year and the firm now manages a record $25 billion.
Viking, Andreas Halvorsen's Greenwich, Connecticut-based firm, had an anniversary party for employees at the Museum of Natural History in New York, according to a person familiar with the situation. The October event featured dinner and Cirque du Soleil-style performers. Viking, founded in 1999, now manages more than $30 billion, making it one of the largest private fund managers in the world. Its main hedge fund was up about 4 percent for the year through September, according to a report in hedge fund news provider Alpha.
Other holiday parties, according to people with knowledge of them, included Fortress Investment Group hosting employees at high-end event space Gotham Hall in New York, Tudor Investment Corp. gathering staffers at The Pierre, a Manhattan luxury hotel, and Whitebox Advisors throwing an annual event near its Minneapolis headquarters.
Spokesman for Citadel, Viking, Fortress and Tudor declined to comment or did not respond to a request.
SkyBridge Capital, the hedge fund investment firm led by Anthony Scaramucci, held a relatively low-key dinner event for staffers at the Manhattan restaurant he co-owns, Hunt & Fish Club. SkyBridge has been known to throw major parties at its annual "SALT" investment conference in Las Vegas, Nevada and at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, among others.
The firm's fund of hedge fund portfolios have lost a small amount of money this year, but Scaramucci couldn't resist one flourish at the New York dinner: star singer Andrea Bocelli. The blind tenor, a personal friend of the SkyBridge founder, was in town for a concert at Madison Square Garden and Scaramucci invited him and his wife to the party as guests, according to a familiar with the situation.
Bocelli came and, according to the person, asked if there was a piano. Wearing sunglasses and a scarf, he was soon belting out Ave Maria, a traditional Christmas song that references a prayer to the Virgin Mary.