As Anthony Scaramucci kicks off the fourth SALT conference this week, he says the hedge fund industry is in considerably better shape than it was during the first event four years ago.
Hedge funds posted a 4.8 percent gain in the first quarter, their best first-quarter performance since 2006. While that underperformed the major stock indexes, it still gives the 2,000 or so managers likely to be in attendance quite a bit more to crow about than they had while flying into the teeth of the financial crisis back in 2009.
For Scaramucci, the high-profile head of Skybridge Capital, the conference offers an opportunity to learn what the industry's next step will be.
"I really am excited to blend a lot of different things, trying to give people who come out there and spend time with us a multi-faceted, intense 72-hour experience," he says. "It's one part economic philosophy, one part philanthropy, one part hedge fund guys talking about their books — long and short — and their expectations for the year."
SALT, or the Skybridge Alternatives Conference, kicks off officially Tuesday with a meet-and-greet, then into the meat of the agenda Wednesday for a rapid-fire succession of events featuring a stream of top names from every aspect of finance and politics.
While the two rock stars of the event are former Vice President Al Gore and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, there are dozens of other top-flight speakers scheduled.
From the financial world, they include Nouriel Roubini, Jeremy Siegel, David Darst, Philip Falcone, Barry Sternlicht, Leon Cooperman and a host of others.
Political leaders speaking include Karl Rove, former President George W. Bush's top adviser, who will duel with Robert Gibbs, former White House spokesman and longtime adviser to President Obama. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates will be on hand ,as well as oil bigwig T. Boone Pickens.
Oh, and Scaramucci also secured pop sensation Maroon 5 to perform at a fundraising gala.
"We're not in the conference business," Scaramucci says. "So our natural premise was to create a conference that we would like to attend ourselves."
Scaramucci himself is a ubiquitous media presence, hawking books, talking markets on CNBC's "Fast Money" and even appearing in the movie "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps."
Though his politics are mostly Republican — he famously asked Obama during CNBC's Town Hall why the president was treating Wall Street like a "pinata" — he said he is making sure both sides are represented at the conference.
"I want the conference to be ideological but not partisan," he says. "Our job is to expose people to a wide bandwidth of thought, intellectually, political and otherwise."