Harbinger Parts With Top Analysts, Trader

Jan 13 2011 | 1:58pm ET

Harbinger Capital Partners has laid off a pair of top analysts as it seeks to cope with a vastly reduced asset base.

The New York-based firm let both Clark Baker and Eli Benson go over the past few weeks, Reuters reports. In addition, Kenneth Turano, a young trader at the firm, resigned.

The exits coincide with that of partner and senior analyst Lawrence Clark last week. Clark plans to launch a hedge fund of his own, and his exit from Harbinger was described by firm founder Philip Falcone as amicable.

But Falcone did not disclose the other three departures in a letter to investors telling them of Clark’s exit.

Turano, who is reportedly close to Clark, will likely join Clark’s new event-driven hedge fund. The new firm, which is still nameless, is expected to launch its maiden fund within six months.

It is unclear why Harbinger chose to part with Baker and Benson. The firm has seen its assets under management fall by nearly three-quarters to $7 billion, and some 40% of its assets are tied up in Falcone’s wireless telecommunications initiative. The exits could be the result of Harbinger’s “rightsizing,” or it could be a sign that some staffers are unhappy with a lack of capital to make other investments, Reuters’ sources said.

Benson, who worked on distressed debt, and Turano both joined Harbinger in 2005. Baker was part of the Harbinger team betting against the subprime mortgage market, an investment that produced triple-digit returns and made Falcone’s name and fortune.

There were no similar hits for Harbinger this year. Both the firm’s flagship hedge fund and Special Situations funds were down about 12% last year, when the average hedge fund returned about 10%.

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