TCI Chief Donates $460m to Venture Philanthropy

In addition to Bill Gates, one of the largest influencers in the venture philanthropy world is Chris Hohn, who is one of the most successful hedge fund managers in the world. His fund has been closed for some time and he donates a significant portion of its profits to his Foundation. He is known for his activist style of investing on the hedge fund, and, like the Robin Hood Foundation, is starting to do so on the philanthropy side. It will be interesting to see the direction he takes going forward as his Foundation, now at over $1.4B, has the ability to move the needle significantly in the venture philanthropy world…

TCI chief donates £230m to his charity

By James Mackintosh in London

Published: July 1 2007 22:02 | Last updated: July 2 2007 00:05

Chris Hohn gave £230m ($460m) to his charitable foundation last year, making the activist hedge fund manager one of Britain’s most generous philanthropists, with even more expected to be given this year.

Mr Hohn, founder of The Children’s Investment Fund, told investors in New York two weeks ago that the foundation – run by his wife Jamie Cooper-Hohn – had passed $1bn, less than five years after it was set up.

Mr Hohn’s donations put him at the forefront of venture philanthropy, which has seen financiers and businessmen bring entrepreneurial skills and hedge fund-style activism to charities.

His philanthropy contrasts with the aggressive activism of TCI, which helped block Deutsche Börse’s bid for the London Stock Exchange and led to the downfall of Werner Seifert, the Börse’s chief executive. Mr Hohn is credited with forcing Dutch bank ABN Amro to put itself up for sale, although last week his attempt to make Japan’s J-Power triple its dividend was rejected by shareholders.

Last year’s donation is one of the biggest single acts of charity by a Briton but pales in comparison with donations by US billionaires, with Warren Buffett last year pledging $31bn to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which already has $35bn from Mr Gates, founder of Microsoft.

The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation is understood to be worth about $1.4bn. CIFF finances projects for children in the developing world, with a focus on HIV.

The size of the donations is a result of the phenomenal returns Mr Hohn has generated for investors in TCI, which has more than $10bn under management. Last year he made more than 40 per cent, while in 2005 TCI returned more than 50 per cent.

TCI automatically gives 0.5 per cent of its funds under management to the CIFF, a third of its annual fee. Investors pay an extra 0.5 per cent to CIFF if it produces returns above 11 per cent a year, a level it has far outstripped since it was set up in 2002. In addition, Mr Hohn voluntarily donates the majority of the profits earned by TCI after paying staff.

According to documents to be filed with charity regulators on Monday, CIFF and its US affiliate were given £230m in the year to last August, and the foundation made investment gains of £94m on its investments, which are run by TCI.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007


Feared fund turns to business of charity

By James Mackintosh in London

Published: July 2 2007 03:00 | Last updated: July 2 2007 03:00

When Chris Hohn and Jamie Cooper-Hohn set up hedge fund The Children’s Investment Fund (TCI) and its linked charity, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, they hoped to make a difference to children in the developing world.

Mrs Cooper-Hohn told recipients of aid that the foundation may one day be able to give out $5m-$10m a year.

Last year, five years after starting up, they passed that mark, while the success of Mr Hohn’s hedge fund has pushed assets in the CIFF to about $1.4bn (€1bn, £700m), enough to give out far more than the original target every year forever.

But the foundation does not just give out money. It has adopted the "venture philanthropy" model, pioneered by New York’s Robin Hood charity, set up by legendary hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones.

"I was very eager that if we did this we would do it very much in the way Chris invests, making long-term, well-researched investments," Mrs Cooper-Hohn says, "bringing business rigour and a private sector approach into development."

This extends to the language used: the charity hires "portfolio managers" to keep an eye on its "investments", and is willing to step in and make suggestions when it believes a recipient of aid needs help.

"They want to know that you are efficient and effective," says Bill Clinton, former US president, whose Clinton Foundation charity is given money by CIFF. "But in general they are quite tolerant if you try something that doesn’t work, as long as you stop. They are used to taking reasonable risks – that’s how they make money."

Mr Hohn and Mrs Cooper-Hohn are part of a growing trend towards venture philanthropy, and are rapidly becoming one of the biggest British foundations to push business practices into the charity world.

The growth is beyond anything they expected, thanks to the success of TCI. It now has $10bn under management, making it one of Europe’s biggest hedge funds less than five years after Mr Hohn left as manager of US hedge fund Perry Capital’s European fund to start up on his own.

Last year TCI’s concentrated portfolio returned more than 40 per cent, after 50 per cent in 2005 and 40 per cent in 2004, making it one of the world’s best-performing big hedge funds. It is also one of the most feared in boardrooms, particularly in Europe: TCI is credited with killing Deutsche Börse’s bid for the London Stock Exchange, and its appearance on a share register is closely watched by other investors.

But Mr Hohn, a bespec-tacled graduate of Southampton University whomet his wife while doing graduate work at Harvard,is deeply moved by the plight of children in the developed world, say people who know him.

Mrs Cooper-Hohn says that in the early days of the charity, her husband would ask every day whether the fund had generated enough to provide food aid to a particular village he had come across.

"Chris is truly passionate about kids in developing countries," she said. "His first job was in the Philippines and he saw kids scouring the rubbish dumps and I think he was deeply moved."

The extra money means CIFF can now move into areas in which it had previously decided it was too small to make a difference, such as water and hygiene. But its "portfolio" will remain concentrated, to allow it to be closely involved in each project. After intensive research it has decided not to fund some areas, including those aimed at ending sexual exploitation of children.

Some critics claim it is just a marketing gimmick to promote the hedge fund, pointing to presentations to investors about the work of the charity, including one last year by Mr Clinton. But if it was the plan, it has not worked. Almost no one invests in the fund because of the charity, Mrs Cooper-Hohn says.

So far, CIFF has spent relatively little money. However, it is now scaling up significantly but takes a conservative approach to the hedge fund’s long-term potential. "We are in this phase where our assets are rapidly accumulating," Mrs Cooper-Hohn says. "You can’t expect that to last for ever."