Avenue Names First CIO As Founder Awaits Ambassador Appointment

Mar 18 2013 | 2:35pm ET

Avenue Capital Group has named its top European portfolio manager chief investment officer as it prepares for founder Mark Lasry's appointment as U.S. ambassador to France.

Rumors of Lasry's appointment to one of the most sought-after U.S. diplomatic posts have been around for months. But they were confirmed last week, when former President Bill Clinton told attendees at two fundraisers, including one at Lasry's New York home, that Lasry would be picked for the role.

Lasry is a longtime financial backer of Clinton and his wife, former senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as of President Barack Obama and other Democrats. The Clintons' daughter, Chelsea, formerly worked at Avenue.

While a formal announcement from the White House isn't expected for another few weeks, Lasry's sister and Avenue co-founder Sonia Gardner told the hedge fund's investors on Friday that Richard Furst had been named the firm's first CIO.

"Rich will continue to dedicate his time predominantly to the leadership of the Europe Strategy, and, separately, in his role as Avenue's CIO, will spend a portion of his time providing high-level investment oversight globally," Gardner wrote in the e-mail, which Lasry did not sign. "The Senior Portfolio Managers and Portfolio Managers leading each of our strategies will continue to be responsible for day-to-day investing and managing their independent investment teams within each of those strategies. None of this will change with Rich's appointment as CIO."

Gardner did not mention the Paris posting, alluding only to "the recent speculation in the media regarding Avenue."

Lasry will be the first hedge fund manager to serve as an American ambassador. He will succeed former media executive Charles Rivkin.

Lasry's exit isn't expected to impact Avenue too heavily, in terms of redemptions. Reuters reports that he has turned over most day-to-day management duties to Gardner in recent years and serves more as a "chairman" than a chief executive. He is also likely to return to Avenue when his time in Paris ends.

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