Partner, two traders leave energy hedge fund Sasco -sources

April 17 Thu Apr 17, 2014 8:12pm EDT

April 17 (Reuters) - The chief investment officer and two natural gas traders at Sasco Energy Partners have left the Connecticut-based energy fund, sources said on Thursday, the latest departures from a firm that has struggled to make a profit.

Joe Howley, who joined Sasco around a year ago as CIO and partner to the firm's founding member Tom Purdy, left earlier this month along with portfolio manager Brian Lisoski and trader Garth Camp, the sources who were familiar with the moves told Reuters.

Sasco declined comment.

Once one of the most successful hedge funds in the U.S. natural gas market, Sasco has seen its fortunes slip steadily in the past two years, culminating with a 20 percent trading loss last year.

Its assets under management have also dwindled to around $300 million from a one-time high above $620 million as investors fled the fund.

Sasco's situation is hardly unique as fewer investors have conviction now in the ability of commodity hedge funds to generate good returns. A host of funds have closed in the past two years after struggling to make money, from former gas trading wizard John Arnold's Centaurus Energy to one-time prominent oil and metals trader Chris Levett's Clive Capital.

The departures of Howley and the two traders, first reported on Thursday by energy news portal Sparkspread, follows the exit of another Sasco partner and founding member, Todd Esse, in August.

Esse worked at energy merchants Enron and Sempra before setting up Sasco in 2008 with Purdy and was its first trader. Esse's role in Sasco was taken over by Howley, a former Goldman Sachs trader who was brought in in May after Sasco's 4-year profit run ended in 2012.

Besides Esse, at least three others at Sasco left the firm last year - analyst Michael Zenker who left in October after just a year at the firm; managing director of energy trading Allen Chan and natural gas trader Tom Bennewitz. (Reporting by Barani Krishnan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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