Fla. Hedge Fund Manager Disappears With $350 Million

Jan 20 2009 | 2:07am ET

The investigation into the disappearance of a Sarasota, Fla., hedge fund manager is growing, as federal authorities join the search for—and investigation of—Arthur Nadel.

Investors in Nadel’s Scoop Management and other hedge funds fear losses of as much as $350 million. At the time of his disappearance, Nadel owed some $50 million in redemption payments to investors, according to Scoop’s house accountant, Michael Zucker. Nadel’s funds managed money for about 600 investors.

Nadel was reported missing last week, after his stepson reportedly found a suicide note—is Nadel Florida’s Bernard Madoff, or its Samuel Israel?—at his home. The hedge fund manager had called Geoff Quisenberry on Wednesday and instructed him to get the note from his house. He was last seen by his wife last Monday morning, when he left for work, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

Nadel’s car was found on Tuesday at the Sarasota-Bradentona International Airport. But as with Israel’s disappearance last year, authorities are looking for Nadel, alive and well. Investigators have reportedly traced Nadell to Slidell, La., near New Orleans, using cell phone records; the missing hedge fund manager reportedly called his wife over the weekend. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have joined with the Sarasota Police Department is the search for Nadel. The three groups are set to meet this morning to coordinate what Bill Spitler of the Sarasota police calls “a lengthy investigation.”

Nadel runs six funds, including three at his own firm, Scoop. One of the funds he runs under contract, Valhalla Investment Partners, reported annualized returns of 32% from 2000 until 2006, returns which are now very much in doubt.

“The employees of Scoop Management, which includes Peg Nadel, the wife of Arthur Nadel, have just learned that they, along with many others who have invested money with Art, have been victimized by his unauthorized actions,” Nadel’s family said in a statement.

Despite losses in October, Zucker, the Scoop accountant, said all appeared to be going well at the hedge fund. “He felt that he was turning the whole thing around,” he told the Associated Press of Nadel. He said the hedge fund manager was cheerful at the office, and seemed to be handling the troubles the economic crisis threw the funds’ way, a stark contrast, indeed, from the suicide note, in which Nadel appeared “very distraught,” according to police.

Nadel, who holds a law degree from New York University, was disbarred in 1982 for violating terms of an escrow agreement. A disciplinary committee found him guilty of dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation, although Nadel did repay the money.

Nadel was something of the Bernard Madoff of Florida’s Gulf Coast. A major philanthropist and socialite in the Sarasota area, Nadel also managed money for some of the charities he gave to. The YMCA Foundation of Sarasota, for instance, reportedly had $1.1 million invested in his funds. Similarly, Nadel seems to have had something of his own J. Ezra Merkin in the person of Neil Moody, who founded Valhalla and reportedly recommended Nadel’s services to at least some investors. There is no indication of wrongdoing on Moody’s part, and Valhalla said Saturday that it believes Nadel is still alive.

“It appears, however, that he is likely still at large,” Valhalla said in a statement. “It also appears that he has engaged in improper and unauthorized activities.”

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