New Management Teams Bolster Balyasny

Balyasny Asset Management has added two portfolio managers to its already growing staff ó an expansion brought on at least partly by plans to resume accepting investor contributions for the firmís flagship hedge fund.

Former Perry Capital executive Maulin Shah joined the Chicago operationís New York office on Feb. 4 to run a new event-driven strategy. Around the same time, Ascend Capital alumnus Mark Cusumano arrived at a San Francisco outpost established one month earlier. He has oversight of a book of healthcare stocks.

Their teams at Balyasny are among 34 specialist portfolio-management groups that founder Dmitry Balyasny entrusts to oversee $3.8 billion of equity, the bulk of it in the firmís Atlas Global Investments fund. That vehicle is slated to re-open to investors at some point this year, after cutting off commitments about a year-and-a-half ago.

At Perry, Shah ran an event-driven portfolio totaling more than $1 billion. Before that, he ran the event-driven business at Shumway Capital. Balyasny is allocating 3% of its roughly $14 billion of leveraged capital ó or $420 million ó to him at the start. Eventually, it could boost that amount to 5%.

Given accelerating corporate takeovers and restructurings, Balyasny believes now is an ideal time to add an event-driven specialist like Shah. Employing a large number of short sales, he focuses on catalysts including reorganizations or spinoffs that could affect stock prices while avoiding classic merger-arbitrage plays. From a risk profile, the strategy is similar to the firmís various long/short equity books ó meaning a low net exposure to the U.S. stock market.

As for Cusumano, he is starting with $450 million spanning an equal number of long and short positions in healthcare stocks. He managed $500 million at San Francisco-based Ascend, where he was on board for five years.

Both Shah and Cusumano plan to recruit teams of analysts to aid in their efforts.

The additions escalate what has amounted to a hiring spree at Balyasny in recent months. In December, for example, Lou Conforti came on board to manage a global real estate-stock portfolio. He previously headed a global property group at UBS OíConnor and was a partner at OíConnor Colony Property Strategies, a long/short real estate-equity operation run via a joint venture with Colony Capital. Balyasny hopes to bring that vehicle in-house in the near future.

Balyasny also added dedicated short selling to its coverage areas in December by hiring former Walker Smith Capital staffer Neal McConnell. It additionally has brought in personnel to oversee new utility stock, event-driven, European consumer stock, European financial stock and REIT portfolios ó and has fortified some existing teams. All told, the firm has 177 employees.

Atlas Global has turned a profit every year since its 2002 inception, with low correlation to the S&P 500 stock index.

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