By hedge fund manager standards, Harbinger Capital Partners’ Phil Falcone and his wife have been pretty high profile.

Like John Paulson, he became a billionaire several years ago by betting early that the sub-prime mortgage market would collapse. He has taken activist positions with a number of well-known companies, including The New York Times.

And earlier this year, Falcone, who managed $8 billion in his hedge funds at year-end, was celebrated for his ambitious plan to develop 4-G technology after buying SkyTerra Communications.

We also know he owns 40 percent of the Minnesota wild hockey team, bought the townhouse once owned by former Penthouse Magazine publisher Bob Guccione, and, along with his wife, were sued for sexual harassment by a former employee.

However, so far he has been able to keep one curious endeavor pretty quiet — Harbinger Group. What is Harbinger Group? It is a shell corporation that is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker HRG. Its chairman and CEO is Falcone, who gained control of the company in June 2009 after buying 52 percent of the shares. In other words, anyone — including non-accredited investors — can invest with Falcone.

Harbinger Group actually used to operate under the name Zapata Corp., which was controlled by one-time investor and corporate raider Malcolm Glazer, who owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the National football League and the celebrated British soccer team, Manchester United Football Club.

The company was reincorporated as Harbinger Group in December 2009. The Rochester, N.Y. holding company currently has about $151.9 million in cash and cash equivalents. It owns about 98 percent of Zap.Com Corp., a Bulletin Board traded company whose stock is priced at $0.07 but rarely trades.

According to its most recent 10-K filing, Harbinger Group’s principal focus is to acquire other businesses. It said targets could be in any industry, but most likely in the U.S., although it did not rule out non-U.S. companies.

This is pretty shrewd. Harbinger Group provides Falcone additional access to capital. Harbinger Group says in public documents it plans to pay for the acquisitions using its cash, debt or equity securities or a combination. It also said it may raise additional capital through the issuance of equity or debt securities, including preferred stock. “We believe that our status as a public entity and potential access to the public equity markets may give us a competitive advantage over privately-held entities with a similar business objective to acquire certain target businesses on favorable terms,” it says in the filing.