Alden Global’s No. 2 Exec Jumps to Startup

Alden Global’s second-in-command has left the firm to join a former colleague who has been working to start a new management shop.

Eli Combs departed Alden this week, teaming up with Matt Meehan to form MeehanCombs of Greenwich, Conn. Together, they plan to launch an opportunistic debt fund in the third quarter. Based on the partners’ backgrounds, market players think the fund could start out with as much as $100 million.

Combs is serving as president, with Meehan holding the title of portfolio manager. Also on board as a partner is Alden alumnus Jim Plogh, who is chief operating officer and general counsel.

Combs plans to keep some of his own money with Alden, a distressed-company investor with $2.6 billion under management. With his move, Combs joins a list of professionals who have gone on to launch their own shops after working under Alden founder Randall Smith — among them Jim Bennett of James Bennett Management, Marc Lasry of Avenue Capital and Doug Teitelbaum of Bay Harbor Management.

Meehan began planning the formation of a fund last year, when he left his job running Eos Partners’ Eos Credit Opportunities Fund. It was at Eos that Meehan first worked with Combs, a managing director on the business side of the New York firm from 2006 to 2007.

Combs moved to Alden in February 2008, shortly after Smith founded the New York outfit. Combs served as Smith’s right hand, overseeing business development and strategy.

MeehanCombs’ yet-to-be-named vehicle would invest in a range of credit products worldwide, with an emphasis on Europe. That’s essentially the same strategy employed by the Eos Credit Opportunities vehicle. While opportunistic plays on European debt are currently popular among U.S. managers, the approach tends to work best for firms with a presence in the region — something MeehanCombs lacks.

“I think you need feet on the ground . . . otherwise you’re not going to be the guy who gets the first call,” a fund-of-funds professional said. One source noted, however, that Meehan has extensive contacts in Europe from his days running the Eos fund.

Separately, Alden split from Smith’s family office, Smith Management, on March 31. But Alden’s formal owner, Alden Trust, remains a holding of the Smith family. Smith, a former Bear Stearns executive, made a name for himself with the 1985 founding of former distressed-securities brokerage R.D. Smith & Co.

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