Conatus Capital Management, David Stemerman’s $2 billion hedge fund firm, has revamped its top management after the departure of its president, Kevin Burke.
Burke left at the end of 2015, according to people familiar with the situation, a year when Conatus' stock-focused funds notched double-digit percentage gains but the firm continued to suffer from lower levels of capital.
Burke's management and fundraising duties have largely been taken on by Julie Trent, who has been named chief operating officer. She joined Greenwich, Connecticut-based Conatus late last year as head of marketing and investor relations from Julian Robertson’s Tiger Management, where she held a similar role. And John Cunningham has been appointed chief financial officer; he held the same position at Two Sigma Investments.
Spokesmen for Tiger Management and Two Sigma declined to comment. Burke, who joined Conatus at its founding in 2007 and whose plans were unclear, did not respond to a request for comment.
The changes follow a period of lower assets under management. Conatus, led by former Lone Pine Capital portfolio manager Stemerman, grew to run about $3 billion by the start of 2014. But its main stock-focused hedge funds fell slightly over the year, according to a report by industry publication Alpha. That negative performance apparently prompted some clients to pull their money, reducing assets to slightly more than $2 billion by Dec. 31, 2014, according to a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Firm assets still stand at about $2 billion today, according to a person familiar with the situation. But assets could snap back following strong investment performance in 2015. Conatus’ funds gained between 10 percent and 13 percent for the year, according to people familiar with the performance. The average hedge fund in the category, as represented by the Absolute Return U.S. Equity Index, fell 1.1 percent over 2015. The S&P 500 Index gained 1.4 percent, including dividends.
The 33-person firm also launched a new fund in 2015 for clients who want to focus on so-called "long” investments. Longs are bets on stocks gaining in value, as opposed to the traditional “long-short” strategy of also betting on their decline, or going short. The Conatus Capital Long Opportunities strategy managed $160.2 million as of February 28, 2015, according to a filing with the SEC. A December 2015 filing noted an additional $11.5 million in fundraising.
The firm’s top stock holdings, according to public disclosures of its September 30 portfolio, were PayPal Holdings, Universal Health Services and Allergan.