By now, most investors know that the large hedge funds are run by billionaires rather than millionaires. What many investors might not know is that some hedge funds are reaching the size of large mutual fund families. They have become enormous. To give an idea of their size, the bottom two hedge funds among the top 10 in the U.S. alone have nearly $20 billion in assets under management each.
What is even more amazing than the funds’ individual size is the size of the hedge fund world. In the U.S., funds that had $1 billion or more in assets cumulatively had assets under management of more than $1.3 trillion. Well over $1 trillion of those assets tracked were distributed in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
The industry may be huge, but it is not stable. That’s because so many funds take such outsized risk to grow more rapidly than their competitors. Thousands of funds closed in 2008 after the fall of Lehman Bros. In what was probably the worst quarter in the industry’s history, Hedge Fund Research reported that 700 U.S. funds closed in the third quarter of that year. The funds not only lost money on investment, but also could not repay loans taken from banks that gave them leverage to help increase their asset bases.
The surge in the stock market and improvement in the economy lifted the hedge fund industry back toward record levels last year. According to HFR, the number of new funds rose to 1,113 last year from 935 in 2010, the most since 2007 when 1,197 were counted. Obviously, the success of the business is based to a large extent on the health of the economy, although some of the funds on this list have done well enough to defy that lesson.
A recent report from Absolute Return lists U.S. hedge funds according to their assets under management as of January 2012. A look at the top 10 hedge funds reveals several rather well-known names, but also shines a light on several completely unknown ones.
24/7 Wall St. examined the top 10 hedge funds and outlined their respective units. We also provided the funds’ investment strategies and included some of their top holdings if available.