Hedge Fund Impresario Scaramucci Named as Trump Advisor
From Goldman Sachs to SkyBridge Capital to his legendary SALT hedge fund conference, Anthony Scaramucci always seems to land on his feet. Now an official advisor to the president-elect, he seems to have done so once again.
Anthony Scaramucci — hedge fund investment firm founder, conference organizer, author, Republican backer, and more recently, Donald Trump insider — has been tapped for a job in the president-elect’s administration, according to news reports citing senior transition officials.
Scaramucci, 53, is the founder of hedge fund-of-funds firm SkyBridge Capital and a longtime media fixture who, prior to Trump’s win in November, was perhaps best known for the annual SkyBridge Alternatives Conference (SALT), a glitzy hedge fund industry confab in Las Vegas that attracts high-level power brokers in the worlds of finance, entertainment, and politics. With the move, Scaramucci will serve as a liaison between the administration and the U.S. business and political community, according to a Washington Post report. The news that Scaramucci would eventually be named to a job in Trump’s administration was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
It is in many ways a perfect fit for Scaramucci, a master networker who has a cozy relationship with the media. He clocked frequent television appearances as a commentator on CNBC and Fox Business News before relaunching the once-storied Wall Street Week news program on FBN earlier this year. He also consulted on Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and had a brief cameo in the film, the 2010 sequel to Stone’s 1987 classic Wall Street.
Scaramucci is known as a marketer’s marketer who has leveraged his gilded connections to advance his career. In hitching his wagon to Trump, Scaramucci has seemingly pulled off yet another career coup. But for the Mooch, as he is known, it was simply the latest of many.
The Long Island native, who has frequently alluded to his middle-class background, earned a B.A. in economics from Tufts University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School before landing a job at Goldman Sachs in 1989. It was an inauspicious start: After working as an investment banking analyst for 18 months, he was fired, although he landed another job at Goldman shortly thereafter and eventually became a vice president in the bank’s private wealth division, advising wealthy clients.
Scaramucci left Goldman to co-found an investment firm, Oscar Capital Management, which he sold to Neuberger Berman in 2001. He went on to start SkyBridge Capital, then a hedge fund seeding business that provided startup capital to hedge funds, in 2005. However, the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 was not kind to SkyBridge, as redemption notices came rolling in. In a move that would become his signature, Scaramucci made a gamble that ultimately proved to be wildly successful.
In May 2009, just two months after the global financial crisis had caused markets to hit rock-bottom — and at a time when investment bankers and fund managers were feeling the heat from President Barack Obama and other political leaders — Scaramucci threw the first SALT conference in Las Vegas, an event that eventually ballooned to 1,000-plus attendees and has attracted such powerhouse speakers as former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Hollywood directors Ron Howard and Francis Ford Coppola, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and many others.
In spite of SALT’s success, SkyBridge still had to grapple with a business model that had been hit hard by the crisis. That’s when Scaramucci executed another Hail Mary pass that ultimately worked. SkyBridge, which managed $1.2 billion at the time, swooped in and bought Citigroup’s $4.2 billion fund-of-hedge-funds business, in 2010. Citi itself had been badly damaged by the crisis and needed to unload assets. Scaramucci later told a class of Columbia Business School students that SkyBridge was “the canary that swallowed the elephant.” Today, SkyBridge managed some $12 billion as of November, according to the company’s website, although it too has fallen on tough times, turning in two consecutive years of negative performance. It is reportedly on the sale block.
The SALT conference quickly grew, and ultimately catapulted Scaramucci into the inner sanctum of GOP fundraisers. Scaramucci had supported Obama’s campaign in 2008 but later became a vocal critic of his administration due to what Scaramucci perceived as its anti-Wall Street stance.
Indeed, the decision to host SALT in Vegas was partly in response to a speech by President Obama in which the president scolded Wall Street and corporate America, saying, “You can’t take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime.”
Scaramucci was critical of Trump as recently as March of 2016 but had abruptly changed his tune by the time of that year’s SALT conference in May, convening his network in an attempt to raise money for Trump. (One attendee was Steven Mnuchin, the financier and Trump fundraising chair who has since been nominated for the post of the nation’s next Secretary of the Treasury.)
True to form, master salesman Scaramucci had a ready spin for reporters curious as to why he went from Trump critic to convert. “I’m going to use a Wall Street expression: I think there’s an arb spread between what he’s saying and what he’s actually going to do,” Scaramucci told Institutional Investor at the conference. “I’ve spent a lot of time with him in the last couple of weeks, and I’m way more comfortable with him today than I was six months ago, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”