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Busson Talking Tie-Ups Shows Decline of Hedge-Fund Middlemen

(Bloomberg) — On a Thursday night in May, Arpad Busson danced atop a white sofa, a cigarette in his hand, as the Pet Shop Boys performed their 1980s hit “West End Girls” at his annual hedge-fund charity gala in London.

The party at Kensington Palace Gardens, where guests including celebrities Eva Herzigova were entertained by female trapezists, wasn’t quite as exclusive as in prior years when attendees included Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Organizers dropped the black-tie requirement at Busson’s Absolute Return for Kids dinner, which raised about 15 million pounds ($23 million), little more than half the record 27 million pounds five years ago.

Busson, one of the biggest names in an industry that funnels billions of dollars to hedge funds, is finding raising cash has gotten a lot harder, and not just for charity. Underperformance in the past four years has investors doubting the value of so-called funds-of-funds as middlemen, spurring a wave of consolidation and forcing firms to redefine their business. Busson’s EIM SA has lost about two-thirds of its assets since 2008, and he said it may not remain a stand-alone company.

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