Hedge Fund Returns: How Einhorn, Ackman, Loeb Fared

Bill Ackman CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management LP.
Norm Betts | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Bill Ackman CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management LP.

Two widely followed hedge fund managers ended the year on divergent notes with Daniel Loeb handily beating the broader stock market with double-digit returns while David Einhorn posted only a modest single-digit annual gain after his flagship fund performed poorly in December.

For Einhorn, who has moved stock prices by simply opening his mouth, 2012 ended with lackluster returns when his Greenlight Capital lost 2.8 percent in December, a person familiar with the fund's performance said.

Thanks to losses on computer maker and market darling Apple and in the gold market, Einhorn's investors saw their once healthy double-digit gain shrivel late in the year to leave Greenlight Capital with an 8.3 percent increase for 2012.

Einhorn lagged behind the broader stock market where the S&P 500 index ended the year with a 13.4 percent gain, excluding dividends. The average global hedge fund gained only 3.17 percent, according to data from Hedge Fund Research.

The disappointing end of the year performance at Greenlight Capital illustrates how even a highly influential manager like Einhorn, who has enjoyed something of a cult following in the $2 trillion hedge fund industry ever since his bearish call on Lehman Brothers in early 2008, can stumble.

For much of the year speculation mounted over which stocks Einhorn would pick or pan with General Motors and Marvell Technology getting thumbs up from the manager.

But Marvell's stock price tumbled at the end of the year after it was ordered to pay $1.17 billion to settle a patent infringement lawsuit likely costing Greenlight Capital millions in losses.

A spokesman for Einhorn was not immediately available for comment.

At the same time, Einhorn clearly failed to cash in on supplements company Herbalife where his probing questions on a conference call in May sent the company's share price tumbling and seemed to hint that he was preparing to short the stock price.

But in the end it was William Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management that unveiled its own big short against Herbalife in late December, helping salvage an otherwise lackluster year for the $11 billion fund. Pershing Square gained 5.8 percent in December to end the year up 12.4 percent, an investor in the fund said.

Meanwhile Loeb, known for his sharp tongue and muscle in trying to get some big U.S. companies to shape up their business, had another stellar year, investors said.

His Third Point Ultra fund, which uses borrowed money to boost returns, delivered a 33.5 percent gain while his Third Point Offshore fund gained 21.1 percent.

While Loeb was also hurt by a drop in the price of Apple and gold, he more than made up for it with savvy bets on Greek government bonds and Yahoo.

Third Point was not available for comment.