Noted hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson said he is shutting down his fund at a time when industry assets are growing but returns continue to lag.
Tilson notified clients on Sunday that his Kase Capital Management was shuttering the fund. The fund managed $180 million at its peak —a relatively modest sum by the $3 trillion industry’s standards.
However, he has maintained a high profile over the years through numerous television appearances and headline-grabbing market calls.
“It was a hard decision, but the right one,” Tilson said in an email Thursday explaining his decision to walk away.
“I expect that most of my work will continue to be in the investment field, as I still love it and am confident that I can put my energy and 18 years of experience to good use,” he said. He added that he will not be managing money for other people anymore.
February’s investor letter saw him tell investors he’d “hit the reset button” in September 2016 due to “poor performance” and “my feeling out of sync with the market and finding few bargains.”
Kase was down about 8 percent this year, according to Dow Jones, while the S&P 500 has gained about 12 percent. In an email back in April, Tilson issued something of a mea culpa, admitting that “one would think my returns would be getting better with time, but in fact the reverse has been true.”
He added then that it was no comfort “that I’m in good company,” a reference to the industry’s struggle to come up with market-beating strategies.
Hedge funds broadly this year gained 5.5 percent through August as gauged by the HFRI Fund Weighted Composite Index. While total assets in the industry are just shy of $3.1 trillion, investors pulled $70 billion last year and total inflows (excluding returns) in 2017 are just $1.2 billion, according to HFR.
At the same time, the total number of funds has continued to decline, falling from a peak of 10,142 in 2013 to 9,691 currently, a drop of 4.4 percent.
Tilson famously derided Google‘s IPO back in 2004. He is the co-founder of the Value Investor Insight newsletter and co-author of two books. On the other hand, he reaped millions from his bet against Lumber Liquidators, a company that came under fire for allegedly selling laminated floors with dangerous levels of formaldehyde, sending its shares down 90 percent at one point.
In his letter to clients, he expressed “tremendous gratitude for your patience and confidence in me over the years” as well as regret that he had not been able to deliver better returns.
“If I were managing only my own money, the fund’s recent results wouldn’t bother me quite so much. But investing and running a money management business are two very different things, and reporting sustained underperformance to you was making me miserable,” he said.