Hedge Fund Manager Scoops Up Grain Exchange Seats

Apr 30 2014 | 11:09am ET

A hedge fund manager has been buying up seats on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, doubling their price.

Horizon Kinetics CEO Murray Stahl has bought 13% of the seats on the MGEX, the last independent grain exchange in the U.S., Reuters reports. The exchange is still owned by its members, avoiding the industry consolidation that has seen most U.S. exchanges de-mutualize and consolidate.

Seat prices on the exchange have doubled over the past year as Stahl snapped them up, and now go for nearly $200,000.

The MGEX’s most important contract is in spring wheat futures, with Canadian farmers using the exchange to hedge risk in the two years since the Canadian Wheat Board’s grain monopoly ended. Stahl joined the bourse’s board in October—and the exchange recently proposed increasing individual ownership limits from 20% to 35%.

Stahl’s plan for his cache of 53 seats is not clear. In a recent conference call, he called the investment “strategic,” which could mean he hopes it will be swallowed by one of its larger competitors, such as the CME Group, which a year-and-a-half ago bought the Kansas City Board of Trade for $126 million.

Others speculate that he may plan to list Horizon products on the MGEX, although exchange CEO Mark Bagan told Reuters that it “would be news to me.”

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