What does it take to stand out these days in alternative investments? Superfund, the managed-futures firm running $1.5 billion in 15 countries, thinks it has the answer in an unconventional pitchman: American skiing star Bode Miller, known for his motto "Go fast and have fun" and for boasting last year during his disappointing performance at the Winter Olympics in Turin that he had partied "at an Olympic level."
Miller, 29, is an unusual choice, to be sure, but one Superfund can use to play up its own idiosyncratic nature. The firm was founded in 1995 by former Viennese police officer Christian Baha, now 37, to appeal to retail investors: Its minimum investment is just $5,000 or E5,000 ($6,624), in an industry where a $50,000 entry fee is the norm. "If you look at Superfund, they are trailblazers in their sector," Miller tells Institutional Investor. "They are different, they are young, they are successful. I think Superfund saw a lot of those identical qualities in me."
It also helps that most of Superfund's 55,000 customers are in central and northern Europe, where people learn how to herringbone up a hill about the same time that they learn how to walk. Superfund has sponsored soccer clubs and Formula One teams in Europe for several years, but Miller is its first globally recognized spokesman.
Both the firm and its new face have endured dips and recoveries of late. Superfund's biggest U.S. fund, which gained 11 percent in 2004, suffered a 9 percent loss in 2005 but rose 13 percent in 2006. Similarly, Miller won no medals at the 2006 Winter Olympics but took first at three World Cup events last month. He will sport the Superfund logo on his helmet in February's world championships in Åre, Sweden.
Although Miller believes that both investing and skiing involve "taking calculated risks," he won't be dishing out portfolio advice. "I leave that to the experts," he says.