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Hedge-Fund Titans Hear Chanos, Einhorn, Raise Funds for Cancer

Date: Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Author: Patrick Cole, Bloomberg.com

At last year’s Ira W. Sohn Investment Research Conference, Greenlight Capital Inc.’s David Einhorn told an audience of hedge-fund managers that Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. wasn’t disclosing the whole truth about its finances.

Four months later, Lehman filed the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. The conference attendees who followed his advice got a jump on the rest of the industry. They also got a tax write-off since all the registration fees go to cancer research and an art-therapy program for seriously ill children.

More than 1,000 hedge-fund managers and financial-services executives will pay $3,000 tomorrow to attend the 14th annual conference to hear predictions about financial-market trends at Jazz at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.

The speaker list includes Einhorn, Kynikos Associates Ltd.’s James Chanos; Mark Kingdon, founder of Kingdon Capital Management; Stephen Mandel, chief executive officer of Lone Pine Capital LLC; Euro Pacific Capital President Peter Schiff; and Peter Thiel, chairman of Clarium Capital Management LLC.

“There have been some interesting theses from these meetings that have been an indication of things to come,” said Dan Nir, 48, managing partner of Gracie Capital and the conference’s co-founder, in a phone interview. “This is why the event is as popular as it is. Having a charity that resonates with people is a good thing, too.”

Nir helped start the conference in honor of his friend, Ira W. Sohn, a Wall Street trader, who died of cancer in 1989 at the age of 29. Nir and Douglas Hirsch of Seneca Capital launched the Ira Sohn Research Conference Foundation to raise money by bringing together Wall Street experts to talk about market trends.

Unusual Speakers

“This has spawned a type of conference that didn’t exist before,” said Hirsch, 47, who with Nir covers the event’s expenses. “Because of the event’s format, we’ve attracted people who would never speak publicly.”

Since its founding, the Sohn Conference has raised $20 million for cancer research. About $3 million was raised last year.

In the beginning, the conference’s proceeds went to the Tomorrows Children’s Fund at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey where Sohn was treated.

In recent years, the foundation started giving money to New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and ArtWorks: the Naomi Cohain Foundation in Englewood, New Jersey, which offers art-therapy programs for children fighting life-threatening illnesses.

“The money we’ve received from them has helped us reach new heights,” Daniela Mendelsohn, the executive director of ArtWorks, said in a phone interview about a new program that brings art to ill children in local hospitals. “The impact is now much greater.”

Hedge-Fund Titans

The conference’s draw is its lineup of hedge-fund titans and analysts known for their financial-markets fortune-telling skills. Last year, hedge-fund manager Michael Price recommended shorting the shares of Citigroup Inc. and Wachovia Corp., “and he was correct,” Nir said.

Citigroup’s stock has been trading at about $3 this month, down from about $22 a year ago.

“Over the years, there have been a number of seminal presentations that have identified a turning point in the market,” Nir said.

The conference is at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in Manhattan tomorrow, 2:30-6:30 p.m. Information: +1- 212-677-3173 ext. 222; info@irasohnconference.com

To contact the writer on this story: Patrick Cole in New York at pcole3@Bloomberg.net.