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Hedgestock Vibes Make Business a Pleasure

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KNEBWORTH, United Kingdom (–Hedgestock is an industry event unlike any other. Not only is it a racing certainty that the hedge fund industry has never seen anything like it, it is a fair bet that no other business group has ever organized a conference of such originality. And even the English weather cooperated!

In the process, hedge funds, investors, bankers and service providers have attracted mass public attention in the U.K. The British Broadcasting Corporation featured the event on the Ten O’Clock News, the country’s most watched news roundup, and beamed the report around the world on BBC News 24. Meanwhile, on its front page above the fold, the Financial Times featured a participant decked out in the psychedelic garb of the original 1969 music and art fair.

But the fun and frivolity has not detracted from Hedgestock functioning as a valuable working conference. Two days of investor-fund meetings, educational and debating seminars as well as unparalleled informal networking opportunities have drawn a virtually unanimous thumbs up from the near 5,000 delegates who have attended.

Simon Ruddick, managing director of Albourne Partners, the hedge fund services group that organized Hedgestock, is treated a like a conquering hero as he tours the site. For his part, Mr. Roddick is quick to praise the efforts of the attendees and the creative support of sponsors and exhibitors.

“The place has a great feeling,” Mr. Ruddick said as he escaped the baking 27?? 1/2 C sun Thursday morning [June 8] in the shade of the Albourne Village tent as Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” plays in the background. “We are thrilled with the effort people have put in. Everyone has got into the spirit of things and there is a real sense of community craziness.”

But the real measure of Hedgestock is whether it works as a business event. On that score, the answer seems overwhelmingly positive. A key factor in that is the use of Spotme handheld communications devices to facilitate the scheduling of one-on-one meetings in the Netfest networking program. Prior to Hedgestock getting underway Wednesday [June 7], Mr. Roddick said 3,468 meetings had been pre-arranged. That figure will have been exceeded many times over if all meetings that took place on the site are considered.

“It is easy to have a great time in the sun,” Mr. Ruddick says. “What is important is that people also find on reflection that it works for business.” In addition to meetings, meetings and more meetings, exhibitors including the leading investment banks, service providers, exchanges and some hedge funds have assembled innovative and stylish display areas and hospitality tents.

But there is a close focus on business. Investors are here in good numbers, many from the United States. Amid more than a little grumbling about the mainly negative returns in May, there is a keen curiosity to uncover new investment themes and opportunities.

One investor, who allocates over $500 million and crossed the Atlantic to attend, said Hedgestock is a productive and useful conference. This investor had around a dozen meetings scheduled over the two day event and planned to see many other delegates on a more ad hoc basis.

Exhibitors largely threw out the form book for more traditional conferences and embraced the spirit of the event. Winton Capital drew plenty of attention with their “flower power” tent and the spirit of ’69 Volkswagen camper vans parked out front. And at last report, the Mo?? 1/2 t & Chandon champagne and Pimms bar was doing a roaring trade.

Investment bankers, too, are pleased. “Our clients are loving it so we are happy to bring them along,” one banker said. Some bankers who stayed in London to work on Wednesday arrived in the late afternoon to receive clients and check out how well their competitors were doing.

And, oh, yes, there was the small matter of Hedgestock’s headline attraction, The Who. Fronted by surviving band members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, they performed a 100 minute set Wednesday in the Knebworth concert bowl to a prolonged standing ovation that culminated with an encore medley of hits from the cult musical Tommy. The Who’s appearance came about through Hedgestock’s charitable purpose to donate all net proceeds to the Teenage Cancer Trust.

With people still buzzing over Wednesday’s gala concert, there is a strong sense that Hedgestock will reoccur in the future.

“It is more likely to be every two years rather than each year,” Mr Roddick said. “We want to have the absolute A-list available. We would rather do it every two years and make sure people feel they have to come. We want it to have a slight Mardi Gras feeling and develop different ideas.”

The plan now is for Albourne to draw feedback in the coming weeks from the people and organizations that came. “We want to learn how people say we can improve and we want to keep things fresh,” said Mr. Ruddick.

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Contact Bob Keane with questions or comments at [email protected].


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