Saturday, October 10, 2009

Renaissance Hedge Fund Founder James Simons Retires

James Simons, who ran the region's most lucrative hedge fund for the past 30 years and donated millions to charities and universities, has retired, a person at his firm said Friday.

Simons, 71, who lives in the Stony Brook area, is to remain at Renaissance Technologies Inc. as nonexecutive chairman, said the person at the firm. Simons started Renaissance in the early 1970s. Renaissance, based in East Setauket, is now the world's sixth-largest hedge fund, according to Institutional Investor's magazine, Alpha.

Forbes this month named Simons to its annual ranking of the nation's 400 wealthiest individuals, placing him at No. 41, with $7.4 billion. He was the only Long Islander to make the list.

"I have led the organization for 31 years . . . and it is definitely time" to retire, Simons said in a letter to Renaissance employees, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News.

Renaissance officials on Friday made no public comment.

According to Bloomberg, Simons is to remain Renaissance's main shareholder and has no plans to reduce his investment.

He is an intensely private man, rarely making public appearances.

"I don't think he'll ever truly be retired," said Jeff Bass, president of the Long Island Capital Alliance, which links investors with business opportunities.

"He's obviously a brilliant man, and very charitable, too," Bass said. "He revolutionized the financial community by virtue of how he grew his fund, how he made investments and how he managed them."

If anything, Simons' investment strategies were driven by mathematics. He was once chairman of the math department at Stony Brook University. He earned a bachelor of science in math from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate in math from the University of California, Berkeley.

Simons, the son of a shoe factory owner in Massachusetts, began trading commodities in the '60s with Harvard math wiz Charles Freifeld. They tripled their investment, and the experience led Simons to rely on market returns based on mathematical analysis. His donations to charities and education are enormous. Last year, he gave $60 million to Stony Brook University. In 2006, he raised $13 million to keep a major nuclear physics experiment running at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

(from, October 9, 2009)

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