Saturday, June 20, 2009

Aussie Share Trader refuses $315,000,000 job offer

GREG Coffey has been a big name in London's secretive hedge fund business for several years, but it was a single career decision he made last year that gave the 38-year-old from Sydney an international profile.

Mr Coffey announced last April that he was leaving his job at GLG, one of Europe's biggest hedge funds, despite the firm offering him share options, cash and other inducements worth a total of $US250 million ($314.5 million) to stay for another five years, The Australian reports.

"It never occurred to me that a few hundred million dollars would be an insufficient sum to retain someone," an exasperated GLG chief Noam Gottesman said after Mr Coffey refused to change his mind.

His confidence bolstered by the $US300 million he had earned the previous year, Mr Coffey hoped to set up his own hedge fund but eventually joined a rival hedge fund manager, Moore Capital.

Mr Coffey and his former employers have insisted it was an amicable parting driven by his desire to set up his own business, but insiders say there had long been tensions and frustrations over his role at GLG.

Those who have worked with Mr Coffey, who wears his hair long and chooses leather jackets over suits, say his success is based on a remarkable grasp of market psychology.

"He is incredible at the whole game of working out when a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil what it might mean for Russian equities or US treasuries," one says.

"He senses the next three iterations and acts on it really fast. Another trader might call in the economists to see what they think about some new figures -- but forget it, Greg has already done the trade."

Mr Coffey, whose success has allowed him to amass a property portfolio worth more than $40m that includes a house in London, two waterfront mansions in Sydney, a chalet in Switzerland and a farm outside London, is not the only 30-something Australian to reach the upper echelons of the lucrative alternative management industry in London.

Two 39-year-olds, Wollongong born Lee Robinson and Hilton Nathanson of Perth, have made fortunes by setting up their own hedge funds without attracting the sort of attention generated by Mr Coffey's eye-catching defection from GLG.

An extensive report in The Deal, published today with The Australian, examines the careers of the three Australians who have quietly formed a new generation of leadership in a business with strong Australian roots.

Although the three have spent years working within a few kilometres of each other in central London, they have never met.

Each is married with two children and they share 12-hour-plus working days, but clients, employees, friends and business associates paint pictures of three very different personalities and investment techniques.

Mr Coffey believes it is "too soon to predict an imminent recovery".

In a recent closed-doors briefing to other fund managers organised by the Eurohedge magazine, Mr Coffey said the outcome of the worldwide slowdown and the massive government response was impossible to predict because it was a case of "an immovable object facing an unstoppable force", joking that it was like an all-star wrestling bout between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant.

Possible outcomes ranged from continued recession to stagflation or a repeat of Japan's lost decade of the 1990s.

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