Hedge Fund Sandell Opens Event-Driven Strategy for Small Clients

Aug 21, 2014 3:09 pm ET

Aug. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Thomas Sandell, a hedge-fund manager who makes merger-related bets and once worked alongside the late Ace Greenberg at Bear Stearns Cos., is preparing to invest for smaller investors.

Sandell Asset Management Corp. is setting up the Castlerigg Equity Event and Arbitrage Fund, a mutual fund that will invest in companies undergoing “extraordinary events” including mergers, takeover bids, spinoffs and restructurings, the firm said in a filing last week with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The minimum initial investment in the fund will be $2,000 for retail investors and $25,000 for institutions.

Sandell, 53, who has run his own hedge funds for more than 16 years, focuses on activist investments as well as those driven by events such as mergers and acquisitions. He teamed up with Nelson Peltz in 2006 to spur a turnaround at ketchup maker H.J. Heinz Co. Like other hedge-fund managers who traditionally catered to wealthy individuals and institutions, Sandell is now turning to mom-and-pop investors as a new source of capital.

Sandell didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment on the fund.

The number of takeovers has surged this year, with some $1.9 trillion of mergers and acquisitions announced globally, a 65 percent increase from the same period in 2013. Should this pace continue, it will be the busiest year for deals since 2009.

Risk Arbitrage

The heightened deal flow can benefit managers such as Sandell who engage in risk arbitrage, a trading strategy that involves buying shares in the target of a takeover after the transaction has been announced. The goal is to profit when the target company’s shares trade at a discount to the announced price, reflecting the possibility that a deal might fall through, and when competing, higher bids emerge.

The “risk” in risk arbitrage came to the fore on Aug. 5, the day after two proposed mergers unraveled and the tax treatment for a third was reassessed. More than $20 billion was erased from the market value of four of the companies involved: Time Warner Inc., Sprint Corp., T-Mobile US Inc. and Walgreen Co.

The Castlerigg fund will normally trade in publicly announced transactions and “not engage in speculation on rumors,” according to the Aug. 15 filing. Sandell will have the latitude to invest in transactions it believes will take place but haven’t been announced. It can also pursue activist investments, such as the one Sandell made last year in Bob Evans Farms Inc., and can put as much as 10 percent of its assets into bonds, including corporate debt and U.S. Treasuries.

‘Less Efficient’

The Castlerigg mutual fund will have a global perspective on event-driven trading, providing investors with exposure to capital markets that are “less efficient” than U.S. markets in the areas Sandell targets, according to the registration statement.

A native of Sweden, Sandell received a bachelor’s degree from Uppsala University north of Stockholm, and an MBA in finance from Columbia Business School in New York.

He worked as an analyst at Paris-based Atlantic Finance and head of equity research at Group Delphi, then in 1989 joined Bear Stearns, which hired Sandell to start a proprietary risk- arbitrage operation that would focus on international deals. He was a colleague of Greenberg, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Bear Stearns who died in July at 86.

Sandell left Bear Stearns to open his own hedge fund in 1998 and built up assets of more than $7 billion, only to see investors withdraw much of their capital after his performance sagged during the 2007-2009 recession. Sandell’s assets under management totaled about $1 billion as of Dec. 31, according to the firm’s latest investment adviser report, about the same as the amount it oversaw when it registered with the SEC in May 2010.

--With assistance from Tara Lachapelle in New York.