Bob Serhus, who runs the U.S. fund-of-hedge-fund operation of Swiss bank Julius Baer, is about to call it quits.
Serhus, the chief investment officer for alternative investments at Julius Baer Investment Management, has been on an undisclosed leave of absence for four and a half months. Reached at his home in New Jersey, Serhus said: "We are working on the contract stuff and hopefully, we'll reach a deal Friday."
The New York-based investment unit of Zurich's Julius Baer manages $4.5 billion in alternative assets in the U.S.. Serhus was mostly involved with the day-to-day management of the group's fund of funds business, with $2 billion under management in 90 underlying hedge funds managers.
Julius Baer never disclosed Serhus' leave, raising eyebrows in fund circles.
"It has all kinds of investor implications," said an industry official familiar with his departure. "I'm not sure the investors are going to stick around. Bob was very well liked."
Serhus said he began his leave in March for personal reasons that included the death of a relative. "I had been with Julius Baer for four years. I needed a break," he said.
One observer suggested the departure was due to a rift with Bill Marr, the New York-based global head of alternative investments. Serhus denied it.
Marr did not hire me, and we definitely had different views," said Serhus. "But this was not why I left."
Marr, who is on vacation, didn't return calls for comments. Neil Shapiro, a spokesperson for Julius Baer, said the bank's policy is not to comment on personal moves. Shapiro said Serhus's departure is the only turnover case so far this year in the alternative group.
Serhus joined Julius Baer in May 2001 from fund-of-funds Alpha Investment Management, now part of Safra Bank. Before that, he created SCS Global, a small multi-strategy fund-of-funds in New York. At Julius Baer, he had been promoted from director of research to CIO alternative investments in June of last year.
The departure comes amid rumors Julius Baer is in play. In April, the Swiss bank's founding family had agreed to give up enhanced voting rights associated with their ownership stake, effectively reducing their control of the bank to 18% from 50%.