You know you’re not attending a typical hedge fund conference when the stage is being shared by a four-star general, hall of fame baseball players, former world leaders, Hollywood stars, political pundits and a popular rock band.
But then again, Anthony Scaramucci, the founder of SkyBridge Capital and the host of the 7th annual SALT Conference, which gets underway Tuesday evening at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, is not exactly your father’s buttoned-down hedge fund manager either.
Scaramucci’s blue-collar, New York, in-your-face style helped convince this eclectic group of luminaries — and those who want to hear what they say or peddle services — to converge on the Las Vegas strip to chat about bonds, bombs and the Bronx Bombers, surrounded by, well, bombshells.
SALT, the brainchild of Scaramucci and his partner and SkyBridge’s head of business development Victor Oviedo, is part investment conference, part geopolitical talkfest and part — a big part — Las Vegas glitz. Scaramucci, who recently revived the TV investing show, “Wall Street Week,” peddles accessibility, education and insight.
Yes, the agenda is filled with hedge fund honchos. We’ll hear plenty of investment ideas from a couple of dozen hedgies, including Omega Advisors’ Leon Cooperman, Paulson & Co.’s John Paulson, Jana Partners’ Barry Rosenstein, Third Point’s Daniel Loeb and Canyon Partners’ Joshua Friedman, to name just a few.
Several of them, including Cooperman and Rosenstein, spoke Monday at the Sohn Investment Conference in New York. Hopefully, they’ll have some fresh ideas for SALT. At Sohn, Rosenstein once again made his case for Qualcomm — an activist position he unveiled at yet another conference a month ago — and Walgreens Boots Alliance, his largest holding at year-end. So far this year his New York-based Jana Partners is up 1.1 percent thanks to its 6.7 percent gain in February.
At SALT, Scaramucci will be conducting a one-on-one interview with former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, who no longer needs to worry about accidentally suggesting when the central bank will raise rates.
We’ll also hear from General David Petraeus and General Keith Alexander on the war on terror and cyber threats, which will probably freak everyone out along the way.
Even Karl Rove, Paul Begala, James Carville and Margaret Hoover will share a panel and discuss — more likely argue and sneer about — the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, although Hoover is usually a voice of calm. I think this one should be called the Predictable Political Pundits Panel.
You want unpredictable? Sir Richard Branson will no doubt serve that up when he talks about the legalization of drugs and almost anything else we are not ready for.
Meanwhile, Chuck Hagel and Condoleeza Rice and a panel of Major League Baseball Hall of Famers — Joe Torre, George Brett, Tony LaRussa and Frank Thomas — will discuss, well, who knows? There’s no topic listed for either panel yet. Maybe Brett will put some pine tar on his water glass.
If these discussions still don’t sound eclectic enough for you, we’ll also hear from the likes of T. Boone Pickens — remember him? — and former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who probably won’t tell us how his country’s economy got so screwed up on his watch.
One of the featured luncheon speakers will be Michael J. Fox, whose Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has attracted a large number of hedge fund honchos to its board of directors.
Of course, the highlight of any week at SALT is the rock concert. This year the headliner is One Republic, who most attendees probably haven’t heard of (my daughter threatened never to speak to me again if I accidentally called the band One Direction). But I’m told they are big. (I actually have heard of them, or is it One . . . oops, I almost did it.)
In any case, I’ll be there all week to be your ears and eyes, reporting on whatever these folks talk about, as well as the behind-the-scenes scuttlebutt.
I’ll even down a glass or two of pinot grigio and some hors d’oeuvres on your behalf. Promise.
As sort of a warm-up for SALT, The Sohn Investment Conference took place Monday in New York. Unfortunately, many of the presentations were reprises of previous conference presentations, like Rosenstein on Qualcomm and Pershing Square Capital Management’s William Ackman once again putting pressure on his big short target, Herbalife.
And Keither Meister’s talk on Yum! Brands was anticlimactic since CNBC broke the news Friday about the Corvex Management founder’s planned topic and activist stake.
One fresh presentation at Sohn was delivered by Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn, who made the case against fracking companies, saying they can “contaminate portfolio returns.” He especially beat up on Pioneer Natural Resources, asserting its discounted cash-flow value is roughly half its market value.
Glenview Capital Management’s Larry Robbins, who ranks No. 7 on this year’s Rich List, talked up drug giant AbbVie, predicting the stock could hit $90 by the end of next year. The stock closed at $64.68. He also singled out Brookdale Senior Living, the assisted-living company. Glenview was Brookdale’s fifth-largest shareholder at year-end and the largest hedge fund investor in the stock.