People in the News: Branching Out

Baseball star Alex Rodriguez plays with hedge fund managers; KKR’s Henry Kravis backs biotech; Pershing Square’s Bill Ackman turns to filmmaking.


Alex Rodriguez: Alpha-Rod?

What do actors Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson have in common with hedge fund manager Steve Cohen? They’ve all had drinks with sidelined New York Yankees infielder Alex Rodriguez, who’s been using his largely unpaid vacation to explore the alternative-investment world. The All-Star slugger was spotted at Beverly Hills’ Peninsula hotel with a group that included Cohen, founder of SAC Capital Advisors — now called Point72 Asset Management after New York–based SAC pleaded guilty to insider trading — on the eve of the Milken Institute Global Conference, a recent business and economics confab. A-Rod, 38, is suspended for 162 games in connection with a doping investigation. But his $253 million contract doesn’t expire until 2017, and he reportedly rakes in $20 million a year from businesses such as car dealerships and real estate. For a glimpse of the inner workings of hedge funds, Rodriguez made an appointment with Michael Karsch of New York’s Karsch Capital Management.

— Anne Szustek

Henry Kravis’s Private Medicine

For all of its wide-ranging investments, New York–based KKR, which manages $102.3 billion, has never claimed to be a private equity firm with an eye on cutting-edge biotechnology. But last month co-founder Henry Kravis and his wife, economist Marie-Josée Kravis, announced a $100 million donation to set up the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Noting that the hospital is a leader in understanding cancer at the genetic level, Kravis, 70, said, “The new Center for Molecular Oncology will take these efforts to an entirely new level.” Marie-Josée has served on MSK boards since 2000. The Kravis Center’s focus will be on research and treatment to decode tumors’ molecular information, attacking cancer cells according to their genetic structure. “Too few doctors are trained in genomics,” says Franklin Salisbury, president of the National Foundation for Cancer Research in Bethesda, Maryland. — Jan Alexander

Webmaster of Ceremonies Bill de Blasio

Last decade, when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio represented some of Brooklyn’s bohemian-turned-yuppie neighborhoods as a city council member, his committee assignments included finance and technology in government. De Blasio, 53, tipped his hat to both areas in a May 19 kick-off speech for Internet Week New York, the annual festival that gives the city’s online glitterati yet another opportunity to check into Foursquare. But the clubby New York tech sector is also a big economic boost: De Blasio cited stats from the Association for a Better New York showing that the industry has created 291,000 jobs. “Technology is not only a sector unto itself; it’s a sector that has helped all other sectors become more effective and efficient,” he said. Unveiled at the speech was the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline. Partnering with the city in the $10 million training project are JPMorgan Chase, the New York Community Trust and the New York City Workforce Funders. — A.S.

Empire Builder Jean-Paul Villain

Let’s get one thing straight about Jean-Paul Villain, head of strategy at sovereign wealth fund the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which manages nearly $600 billion in assets, according to Institutional Investor’s Sovereign Wealth Center: Contrary to rumor, he never competed in Olympic steeplechase for his native France. (It was an unrelated athlete of the same name.) But at a recent ceremony in Abu Dhabi, Villain, 68, was named an Honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for bringing investment to the U.K. The OBE recipient joined ADIA in 1982 as regional manager for Europe. Save for a stint at French bank BNP Paribas between 1987 and 1992, he’s been with the fund ever since; in his current role he’s overseen almost $5 billion in British real estate and infrastructure investment. Villain, who also received the Legion of Honor from the French government in 2007, is assembling quite a collection of medals — even if Olympic gold isn’t one of them.

— David Evans


Marc Lasry and Marc Mezvinsky, the Gamblers

Marc Lasry, founder of $13.6 billion, New York–based Avenue Capital Group, hasn’t always had the best luck at the poker table. Last year talk on the Street suggested that Lasry’s friendship with a Russian national busted in an illegal poker ring played a role in the hedge fund manager’s not being named U.S. ambassador to France. Yet, rather than walk away from the game, Lasry, 53, is doubling down — this time for charity. On June 7 in New York he co-hosts a high-stakes poker tournament fronted by ex–U.S. president Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea to raise money for the Clinton Foundation. Lasry has long been a Clinton family supporter: Chelsea worked at Avenue before she decided that being a hedge fund executive wasn’t for her. Her husband and tournament co-host, Marc Mezvinsky, 36, is a partner in his own hedge fund firm, Greenwich, Connecticut–based Eaglevale Partners. With Hillary Clinton widely expected to make a bid for the 2016 presidency, her family and supporters’ fundraising ability is under scrutiny. In 2008 she proved less popular with the younger Wall Street crowd, to which Mezvinsky now belongs, than rival Barack Obama. Those folks are exactly the type to enjoy a good game of cards.

— Imogen Rose-Smith

Womenomics Pioneer Kathy Matsui

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called women the “greatest dormant potential” for an economic comeback in his country. The next phase of his growth strategy, due to launch this month, could include a reform aimed at encouraging them to work longer hours by scrapping a tax incentive for married couples with limited earnings. For Kathy Matsui, who coined the term back in 1999, it’s about time Abe embraced “womenomics,” which ties women’s advancement to GDP growth. Matsui, 49, is chief Japan equity strategist at Goldman Sachs in Tokyo and a 13-time member of Institutional Investor’s All-Japan Research Team. She and her colleagues have produced studies asserting that women are a big force behind consumer spending in Japan. “More workers means more income; more income means more consumption; more consumption means more profits,” Matsui said in May at a New York conference of female corporate directors. “We estimate that this virtuous cycle could lift the output of the economy by a whopping 13 percentage points.” — J.A.

Bill Ackman: Lights, Camera, Activism

Pershing Square Capital Management, the $12.1 billion hedge fund firm run by activist investor Bill Ackman, has a new pressure tactic: film. The 13-minute documentary Former Herbalife Distributors Speak Out, which premiered on May 2 in New York, is now available for free online. The hedge fund industry’s first-ever cinematic challenge to a corporation, it’s the latest move in Pershing Square’s battle against Los Angeles–based Herbalife, a multilevel marketing distributor of nutritional and diet supplements. In the flick, several former Herbalife distributors recount spending thousands of dollars on products and sales leads. Herbalife was dismissive of the short film. “You’ll decide for yourself whether this is something to laugh at or something serious,” Ackman, 48, said at the premiere. In December 2012, New York–based Pershing Square shorted Herbalife $1 billion on the bet that regulators would shut it down over allegations that it’s a pyramid scheme. — A.S.