Charity shelves opulent London hedge fund gala dinner

LONDON Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:02am EDT

Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge speaks with Elizabeth Murdoch at the 10th annual ARK (Absolute Return for Kids) gala dinner at Kensington Palace in London June 9, 2011. REUTERS/Arthur Edwards/pool

Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge speaks with Elizabeth Murdoch at the 10th annual ARK (Absolute Return for Kids) gala dinner at Kensington Palace in London June 9, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Arthur Edwards/pool

LONDON (Reuters) - A lavish gala dinner that was a highlight of the London hedge fund industry's social calendar and counted royalty among its guests has been quietly shelved.

The ARK Gala Dinner, which started in 2002, cost as much as 10,000 pounds ($15,500) a ticket, with entertainment over the years ranging from singers Elton John and Prince to a giant mechanical elephant.

The dinner will not take place this year as the charity it supports looks at other fundraising events, a spokeswoman for ARK (Absolute Return for Kids) said.

She said that the charity instead hosted a champagne reception in January attended by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

"We think we should have a variety of means of communicating (with donors)," she said. "More and more of the donors are coming to us interested in particular programs ... At the dinner, conversations (about projects) are not as detailed."

The spokeswoman said no decision had been taken about whether the event would take place in the future.

The amount raised by the dinner - which funds projects ranging from training health workers in rural Zimbabwe to running British schools - has almost halved since its 2007 peak, when 1,200 guests helped to raise 26.6 million pounds.

Last year's dinner raised 14.5 million pounds, with the charity citing "an extraordinary show of generosity at any time, but especially so given the challenges of fundraising in this climate."

The event was well known for its high-profile speakers, such as the Duke of Cambridge, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Queen Rania of Jordan. Venues have ranged from Waterloo Station to Kensington Palace Gardens.

Prizes up for auction have included a Fiat car decorated by artist Tracey Emin, an invitation to Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday party and yoga with musician Sting.

The dinner has been put on ice just as the $2.4 trillion hedge fund industry has rebounded strongly from the financial crisis. In this year's Sunday Times Hedge Fund Rich List, for instance, 13 managers had fortunes of 300 million pounds or more, up from nine the previous year.

A number of hedge fund managers and firms have been making philanthropic donations under their own steam.

Brevan Howard, headed by Alan Howard, who is ranked top of this year's Sunday Times Hedge Fund Rich List with a 1.5 billion pound fortune, is giving 20.1 million pounds to fund a new research center at Imperial College. Winton Capital's David Harding has given 20 million pounds to Cambridge University.

Big donors to the arts include CQS founder Michael Hintze and Lansdowne Partners co-founder Paul Ruddock.

One hedge fund industry executive also told Reuters that some clients had been unable to accept invitations to certain events following the UK Bribery Act which came into effect in 2011 and which has made companies cautious about offering or accepting corporate hospitality.

ARK was set up by Arpad Busson, partner of actress Uma Thurman. He founded hedge fund investor EIM in the 1990s and has been mulling a sale of the fund for some time.

(Reporting by Laurence Fletcher. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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