Some See A House; Hedge Fund Honcho Sees Museum

Sep 17 2007 | 1:28pm ET

Long the home of the hedge fund elite, the Hamptons are becoming their battleground.

In June, Marc Spilker, who heads Goldman’s hedge fund strategies and private equity groups, took a bulldozer to a hedge on the property of James Chanos of Kynikos Associates, seeking a quick and relatively irreversible end to their battle over the width of a shared path to an East Hampton, N.Y., beach. Now, a hedge fund manager is fighting for the hearts and minds of Sag Harbor, N.Y., residents—and a historic church.

Exis Capital Management’s Adam Sender dreams of turning the 171-year-old Sag Harbor United Methodist Church into a contemporary art gallery to showcase his $100 million collection. The only problem? Someone else—a former Goldman Sachs executive—has already agreed to buy it, and he doesn’t see a museum.

He sees a house.

Dennis Suskind, a former Goldman Sachs partner and former Southampton Town Council member, agreed in July to pay “under $3 million” for the church, which was built in the 1830s and moved to its present location on Madison Street in downtown Sag Harbor in the 1860s, Bloomberg News reports. There was no bidding war when the church board—which plans to build a smaller structure for the congregation because it can’t afford to restore the landmark—accepted it, because Suskind’s was the only offer.

“The church was on the market,” Suskind told Bloomberg. “A lot of people looked at it, and I signed a contract to buy it. That’s how it works in the U.S.”

But latecomer Sender is not giving up.

“Another residence is not what the Sag Harbor community wants for the church,” Sender said. To which Suskind replies, “I’m sympathetic to the idea of preserving local buildings for community use. I encouraged uses like that when I was a councilman. But the church is in a residential zone, and there’s virtually no parking for public uses.”

Suskind has until mid-October to decide whether to buy the church. He and his family are currently assessing what it would take to repair the building and convert it to a residence.

The restoration won’t come cheap: Sender estimates it would cost $5 million to convert the church into a museum for his 800-piece collection, which includes such contemporary luminaries as Diane Arbus, Matthew Barney, Gilbert & George, Damien Hirst, Sol LeWitt, Bruce Nauman, Sarah Lucas and Chris Ofili.

But money Sender has: While his hedge fund cohorts have seen ugly days of late, his fund returned 22% in August.

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