Hedge fund elite, celebrities, and non-profit leaders gathered for the annual Robin Hood Foundation benefit in Manhattan on Monday night. The gala — described by organizers as typically the most lucrative fundraiser in the U.S. — has long been a see-and-be-seen event for the alternative investing class.
Amid fog and strobe lights, Robin Hood’s co-founder Paul Tudor Jones made a dramatic entrance to the stage by vanquishing a foe in a sword fight. Jones, a hedge fund manager, helped set up the nonprofit more than 30 years ago to alleviate poverty in New York City.
On Monday, he was dressed up as Jon Snow from the hit TV show Game of Thrones, complete with a floor-length cape, chainmail, and a voluminous curly wig. “Everyone who’s here tonight and has supported Robin Hood … has helped battle the Night King of poverty,” Jones told attendees at the Jacob K. Javits convention center. “Two million New Yorkers live in poverty. Two hundred thousand young people between 16 and 24 do not have a job and aren’t in school — no future.”
He then ceded the stage to veteran art auctioneer Jamie Niven, who served as ringmaster to the gala’s ritual solicitation of $1 million-plus donations. Celebrity assistants including former boxer Evander Holyfield, ex-basketball player for the New York Knicks Allan Houston, and MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle and Willie Geist helped drum up smaller pledges.
How much did Robin Hood rake in? For the second year in a row, organizers won’t say.
Niven tallied at least $23 million in his round alone. But the galas’ stupendous fundraising figures had come to overwhelm the organization’s brand, insiders told Institutional Investor in prior interviews. When chief executive officer Wes Moore took over in 2017, he gradually began redirecting attention on Robin Hood’s work alleviating poverty, and away from its money-gathering prowess.
“Wes has done a tremendous job of growing the audience for Robin Hood,” John Overdeck, Two Sigma’s co-founder and event co-chair, told II Monday. The nonprofit “has gone through a couple of transitions and is coming into its own again. Robin Hood has refocused itself like a laser on providing for New Yorkers in need.”
Asked about the charitable leanings of Two Sigma’s younger staff, Overdeck said, “Everybody has to find their own passion in philanthropy. Personally, New York has been very good to me. It’s good for us to keep in mind some of the social problems and social opportunities facing us.”
Other hedge fund luminaries at the event included Glenview Capital Management’s Larry Robbins and Pershing Square Holdings’ Bill Ackman, who wore a bold gray-and-pinstriped suit.
“I think they are very efficient at allocating resources,” Ackman said, explaining his longtime support for Robin Hood. The industry’s substantial woes were far from his mind. Pershing Square, unlike many of its peers, has been on a tear this year. “I got married, just had a baby, and the business is doing well,” he said. “No complaints.”