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MINNEAPOLIS (–American Express Alternative Investment Group has lost another member, Scott M. Nelson, who left to pursue other opportunities within the hedge fund industry on Feb. 25.

Mr. Nelson, a senior managing director, was in charge of the commodities pool entities at Amex. His duties changed when Darryl Horsman was brought on board to head the alternatives group. Mr. Nelson was made a senior vice president of marketing, according to an American Express spokeswoman.

Mr. Nelson is the third person in a month to leave the hedge fund area at American Express. Joe Kinnison and Tim Stevenson, who both left in February, preceded Mr. Nelson’s departure. Both left to pursue their hedge fund careers elsewhere. Mr. Kinnison joined Tice Asset Management, Clayton, Mo. HedgeWorld could not find where Mr. Stevenson went.

This prompted American Express to shutter its U.S. equity long/short opportunistic strategy and focus on its market neutral portfolio and start-up funds. (Previous HedgeWorld Story)

According to a source close to the firm, the problems in the alternatives group started a couple of years ago, and centered on compensation and control issues. “I think the performance fees that were paid out dwarfed what was being paid to others within the industry,” the source said.

Mr. Kinnison said that officials at Amex’s alternatives group asserted that they had a great product and great performance, but the company wasn’t willing to make long-term commitments to the management team.

“We tried very hard to make that business one that was very dynamic,” Mr. Nelson said.

In mid-2001, a proposed spin-off of the unit as a separate company failed. It was soon after the spin-off went awry that Gregg Groechel and Bill Miller, two senior portfolio managers, left to form RedSky Partners LLC, Minneapolis, sources said.

A number of investors in the U.S. long/short fund stayed, even after the departures of senior portfolio management on the basis that there would be no more changes to the fund management, Mr. Kinnison said. He added that the fund was below its high watermark at the time it announced its compulsory redemption.

An American Express spokeswoman said there has been no change in compensation for portfolio managers. The firm continues to focus on alternative investments after shifting its long/short equity team to the market neutral portfolio. There are plans to launch new funds including a distressed debt fund and a fund of funds.

John Engelen will build the distressed debt management team and Ken Stemme as managing director of alternative investments is focusing on a fund of funds launch. Messrs. Engelen and Stemme were hired in June.

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