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May 13, 2020  

Fir Tree Ex-Partner Planning Fund Launch

A former Fir Tree Partners executive is planning a fund that would invest predominantly in debt and equities outside the U.S.

Aaron Stern departed Fir Tree’s New York headquarters in recent weeks after 10 years at the firm. Stern, who was a partner and managing director, has since relocated to his hometown of Montreal. His plans for the fund are in the preliminary stages, a source said, adding that it’s unlikely to start trading before the first quarter of 2021 at the earliest. Stern has yet to finalize a name for the firm.

Indications are that he would take an event-driven approach to trade across equity and debt. The strategy is likely to entail distressed plays on the credit side, with a portion of equity holdings coming in the form of activist stakes.

Stern has taken a public-facing role in several of Fir Tree’s high-profile activist campaigns over the years. He helped lead the manager’s campaign seeking a board shakeup and share buyback at JR Kyushu, one of Japan’s largest rail operators. Fir Tree has continued to make progress on that campaign since Stern left.

Beyond his activist plays at Fir Tree, Stern has experience with a variety of financial instruments. He has invested in Greek government debt, European stocks and distressed assets in Puerto Rico.

Fir Tree, a long-term value manager that invests in debt, equities and real estate, is led by David Sultan and Clinton Biondo. Stern’s fundraising aspirations ought to be bolstered by the experience he gained heading activist campaigns and dealing with executives at target companies, one source said. Fir Tree had $2.8 billion under management at yearend 2019.

Before joining Fir Tree, Stern spent two years working as an analyst at Oscar Schafer’s now-shuttered O.S.S. Capital.