Hedge funds take a liking to the arts

Man Group’s sponsorship of the Booker literary prizes is just the tip of the iceberg of hedge funds sponsoring artistic endeavour.

Man Group typically thrives on a bit of volatility. Its experience navigating sometimes severe turmoil, and deciding where to award some of the $71bn client assets it allocates, probably prepared it well for this year’s Man Booker International Prize.

The hedge fund investor started sponsoring, though not actually judging, the series of Booker prizes from 2002.

The main prize, the Man Booker, recognises the best novel published by a Commonwealth or Republic of ­Ireland citizen.

There is also the Man Asian Literary Prize for the best novel by an Asian writer either written in or translated into English.

The judging of each prize is left to literary panels – which can be as volatile as capital markets.

This year’s Man Booker International – rewarding an author’s body of work rather than any single book – was taken by the USA’s Philip Roth, known for such titles as I Married a ­Communist; Goodbye, Columbus; and Portnoy’s ­Complaint.

But even before the announcement in Australia in May, judge Carmen Callil resigned in protest and British author John Le Carré withdrew saying he did not compete for literary prizes.

Speaking at an awards dinner in London in June, judging chairman, writer and academic Rick Gekoski acknowledged the tumult, and that Roth was not ­everyone’s ‘cup of tea’.

Many readers were angered by his works, while others might find some uninspiring.

But for “achievements in fiction on the world stage”, the 78-year-old still took home the cheque for £60,000.


Such background ructions have not stopped Man’s enthusiasm for supporting artistic pursuits.

Chief executive Peter Clarke said at the awards dinner that his ­firm was “in the final stages of negotiations to extend its sponsorship”.

Man Group is one of many hedge funds with significant not-for-profit activities. Some such, including the Booker awards, attract publicity by their very nature, volatile or not. Others are less well-known.

When you next visit London, you may like to take a tour of hedge fund philanthropy.

First, visit the British Museum and its Paul and Jill ­Ruddock Gallery of Medieval European art, which includes the famed Lewis Chessmen (top right).

Paul, founder of Lansdowne Partners, recently told Bloomberg: “Everybody who can afford to should give some time to some charity, because that’s about giving back to society. A lot of people in our financial industry have skill sets which are very good for philanthropic ventures.”

Paul Ruddock is also chairman of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, where he helped finance the refurbishment of its Medieval and Renaissance galleries.

It also benefited from Michael Hintze, founder of hedge fund CQS, who helped finance the Dorothy & Michael Hintze Gallery, where sculptures from the Middle Ages rub ­shoulders, so to speak, with more modern works.

If you visit the Old Vic Theatre, currently showcasing a sold-out season of William Shakespeare’s Richard III with Kevin Spacey playing the king, you will enjoy productions financed – at least in part – by Hintze, who is a member of that theatre’s Artistic Director’s Circle.

Visit the Tate Gallery and you benefit from past ­support from Pierre Lagrange and GLG, the hedge fund he ­co-founded.

But why should financiers be involved in the arts, broadly defined? Speaking of his links with the Old Vic, Hintze says:

“I am very proud of our association. It is something important to support your cultural heritage and is something that is crucial to the health of society.”

Clarke provides another reason, in regards to the Booker and closures of many libraries in the UK in the face of public spending cuts.

“At a time of cutbacks in public funding for the arts, Man is highly cognisant of the ­importance of corporate support in this area.”

As austerity bites across much of Europe, aesthetic ­pursuits might rely increasingly on hedge funds and other finance-related fields to provide the public some ­welcome diversion from harsh times.  

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