Friday, December 05, 2008

Fleckenstein Shutting Down Short Hedge Fund

by Bill McBride on 12/05/2008 08:29:00 PM

From Bill Fleckenstein's Daily Rap: (Here is Fleck's Site for the Daily Rap):

Note: reprinted with permission.

"After considerable thought and deliberation I have decided to make a major change in my life: I am going to close my hedge fund. I have several reasons for no longer wishing to run a short-only fund as I have for the past 12 years. First, my original reason for starting the fund was because of developments I saw occurring in the late 1990s that I wanted no part of. I felt that Greenspan was fomenting an environment that would lead to disaster, as consultants, financial advisors, and the public at large were losing all respect for risk. Of course, the reckless behavior carried far higher and lasted much, much longer than I ever imagined it could. However, the recent carnage in the stock market, real estate market and the financial system (as well as the job losses) has washed away those excesses to a large degree and it has violently demonstrated the risks associated with investing.

A future goal of mine, when I set up the fund in 1996 -- as I attempted to step aside from the madness -- was to return to the long side of the business at some point in time when I felt that investors had become more rational regarding risk and stocks offered a more favorable risk/reward proposition. I considered this option very briefly in 2002 after the stock bubble imploded, but the cleansing process was postponed due to the burgeoning real-estate bubble.

Second, though I think that the stock market still has unfinished business on the downside, I believe that 2009 is the year to prepare for a return to managing money in a more balanced fashion, with longs (and some shorts), as there are currently plenty of interesting ideas that appear to offer a margin of safety. On the flipside, compelling opportunities on the short side are not as abundant as they were just a few months ago (though there still are plenty.) The "value restoration project," to quote Jim Grant, has been brought about by the consequences of disastrous Fed policies and the madness of the crowd, both of which have concerned me for the last 15 or so years.

Lastly, on a personal note, I no longer want to run a short-only hedge fund, as it is very stressful, nerve-wracking and generally not very much fun, entailing an intense focus on the short term to effect risk control. In addition, one views the world differently when operating solely from the short side and I would like to widen my focus as I did when I managed money from 1982-1995. My wife is especially happy about this potential change.

My efforts in 2009 will be directed towards setting up an investment vehicle managed by Fred Hickey and me that won't be a hedge fund, which hopefully will be available to everyone. I feel that many (but certainly not everyone) in the "hedge" fund community have behaved in a disgraceful manner in the last couple years by taking huge fees along the way and then either running at the first sign of trouble (by giving money back to avoid having to recoup draw-downs from high watermarks), or locking people up and not giving them their money back at all. Consequently I'd rather not be part of that "industry" going forward. The Rap will continue as it has."

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