Chris Rokos’s ability to operate as the Thomas Pynchon of hedge funds is drawing to a close. Rokos, 44, is so private that despite his having been a founding partner of the $27 billion Brevan Howard Asset Management, one of Europe’s most successful hedge fund firms, no printed photographs of him exist. The only image on the Internet is a LinkedIn head shot featuring shaggy locks more befitting of a European footballer than a top money manager.
Now, however, Rokos is not only launching his own firm but has emerged as a major backer of Britain’s Conservative Party. With apologies to GLG Partners co-founder Pierre Lagrange, the most bouffant man in hedge funds, it’s time to update that picture.
Figures from the U.K. watchdog the Electoral Commission show that from 2009 to 2014, Rokos gave more than £1.37 million ($2.02 million) to the party, making him one of the biggest individual donors to today’s Tories. All but two of his donations came after the May 2010 election, which saw the Conservative Party rise to power through a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and made Tory leader David Cameron prime minister. Rokos, like Cameron, attended Eton College and then Oxford University, where he studied mathematics.
The backing of the Conservative Party by Rokos and other hedge fund managers is being raised as a political issue by the rival Labour Party as the May 7 U.K. election approaches.
Rokos belongs to the so-called Leader’s Group, the Conservative Party’s top donor circle, whose members pledge to give a minimum of £50,000 a year. Members of the group, which Conservative treasurer Howard Leigh chairs, are “invited to join David Cameron and other senior figures from the Conservative Party at dinners, post-PMQ [Prime Minister’s Question Time] lunches, drinks receptions, election result events and important campaign launches,” according to the party’s website.
Rokos was not among the Leader’s Group members who wined and dined with Cameron in the fourth quarter of last year. Fellow hedge fund manager Sir Michael Hintze and his wife, Dorothy, were. Cameron hosted them at Chequers — the country estate that comes with the PM package — on October 17, 2014, according to public records. But then Rokos was probably a bit busy, even for hobnobbing with heads of state. During 2014 the former Goldman Sachs & Co. and Credit Suisse Group trader was involved in litigation with the firm he co-founded over a noncompete clause in his contract.
Rokos, the first “r” in Brevan Howard, had left the Jersey, Channel Islands–based hedge fund firm in 2012. Last May he began litigation against the firm, which moved its global headquarters out of London in 2013 for tax reasons, to overturn an agreement preventing him from opening his own hedge funds for five years from the date of his departure.
In January, Rokos and Brevan Howard settled their disagreement. The hedge fund will be an investor in his start-up. Rokos’s new firm, currently operating as a family office, does not yet have an official name. Nor are there any photos.