Here are under-the-radar hedge fund managers who crushed 2020, including a new launch from an former Viking Global portfolio manager and a comeback from a one-time Goldman partner

  • The 2020 highs of big-time stock-pickers like Coatue and D1 Capital and the lows of well-known quants like Renaissance Technologies and Winton Group have been tracked throughout the year.
  • But many lesser-known funds — with mixed backgrounds and strategies — have been able to turn a tough year for many into big profits.
  • Funds like Whale Rock, a $12 billion manager with a focus on technology, media, and telecom stocks, and Axon Capital, run by former Goldman partner Dinakar Singh, both had banner years, making more than 70%. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For big-name managers, 2020 went either very well or very poorly. 

Quants such as Renaissance Technologies, Winton Group, and Bridgewater Associates struggled, losing double-digits in their multi-billion-dollar funds. On the other end of the spectrum, concentrated stock-pickers like Coatue Management, Pershing Square, and D1 Capital all made more than 50% on the year — led by billionaire Bill Ackman’s 70.2% blockbuster performance, while macro managers like Brevan Howard and Andrew Law’s Caxton had resurgent years, according to Bloomberg.

Multi-strategy managers mostly performed well also, as Institutional Investor reported Point72 founder Steve Cohen personally made at least $1.4 billion on the back of his firm’s 16% returns in 2020. Dmitry Balyasny’s eponymous firm, Ken Griffin’s Citadel, and Nick Maounis’ Verition all were on track to return at least 20% for 2020 These all lapped the returns of Hedge Fund Research’s Global Hedge Fund index, which finished the year up 6.81%. 

But there are also plenty of under-the-radar managers, with varied backgrounds and strategies, with explosive numbers in a chaotic year. 

See more: The 12 hedge funds to watch in 2021: big names, new launches, and under-the-radar managers

Industry sources pointed Business Insider to names like Dinakar Singh, the former Goldman Sachs partner who runs Axon Capital, and $12 billion Whale Rock, a technology-media-telecomms investor run by Alex Sacerdote; both funds returned more than 70% for the year in their flagship funds. Whale Rock’s long-only fund — which launched in January and runs $3.4 billion — returned more than 86% in its first year of trading.

Alex Sacerdote

Whale Rock Capital Management founder Alex Sacerdote

Like D1 and Coatue, Whale Rock has been a major player in the private markets as well, putting $400 million into start-ups last year, according to industry sources, including fintech unicorns like Chime and Divvy. 

For Singh, it’s adding to his rising-from-the-ashes story. He originally founded his fund with private equity giant TPG in 2005 and grew it to more than $13 billion before his performance slumped and investors withdrew, including his original backer. Two years ago, he relaunched, with 17% returns in 2019. 

London-based Cheyne Capital, founded by Morgan Stanley alums in 2000, saw its Thematic Equity fund put up a big year, sources said, returning 36.5%. 

Betting on COVID-resilient sectors was the big driver for $280 million Marlowe Partners last year, according to sources. The manager, run by Appaloosa alum Eric Udoff and former Soros senior analyst David Steinberg, made 37.1% last year — including 7.6% in December alone — off the backs of sectors like video games and pet healthcare, and re-opened for outside capital for the first time in two years last month. 

In a year marked with volatility, managers like Adam Sender — founder of Sender Company & Partners — were able to profit. The former SAC portfolio manager who has started several hedge funds of his own made 69.4% in his $165 million Global Volatility Voyager fund, industry sources said. 

In the fixed-income relative value space, where big names like BlueCrest were hit hard during the pandemic’s US start, Garda Capital Partners — run by Black River alums Jeff Drobny, Tim Magnusson, and Robert Goedken — made 22.6% in its $6.5 billion fund. That figure was the second-best mark in the fund’s 17-year history, sources said. 

New launches last year were harder to come by, as the pandemic shut down in-person fundraising roadshows and networking conferences, but there was at least one notable performance that came from a new fund: Former Viking Global portfolio manager Mina Faltas launched equity-focused Washington Harbour in May, and finished the year up 90% with $500 million in assets, sources said. 

See more: THE TRUE TIGER KING: Inside the sprawling web of billionaire Julian Robertson, whose legendary Tiger Management has helped spawn hundreds of new hedge funds

Big-name activists made plenty of news last year, including billionaire Dan Loeb has made waves recently by calling on Intel to make sweeping changes, including potential sales, and his Third Point made more than 10% in 2020 — a big turnaround after his portfolio was down nearly 8% after the first quarter. Some smaller activist investors though finished with even more impressive 2020s. 

Engaged Capital, a California-based activist that runs $1 billion, returned more than 50% last year, while Blackwells Capital finished 2020 up 31% after a 10% jump in March, industry sources said. Blackwells, originally created in 2016 out of the family office of founder Jason Aintabi, opened to outside capital for the first time this year.

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