* Speculation mounting Marc Lasry will be new ambassador to
* Firm names longtime portfolio manager as CIO
By Katya Wachtel
NEW YORK, March 18 As speculation mounts that
Avenue Capital hedge fund co-founder Marc Lasry will be
nominated as the next U.S. ambassador to France, his $12 billion
firm has told investors it is naming its first chief investment
officer, according to a memo reviewed by Reuters.
Lasry, who co-founded the distressed debt firm with sister
Sonia Gardner in 1995, is a longtime Democratic donor who was
one of the few hedge fund managers to support President Barack
Obama during his re-election campaign last year.
Reuters reported on Friday that with speculation growing
President Obama will soon nominate the 53-year-old Lasry for the
overseas job, several institutional investors in the hedge fund
said they did not expect investors to be overly concerned if
Lasry were to go to France.
On Friday evening, Avenue investors received an email from
Gardner that did not explicitly address Lasry's potential move
to Paris, but seemed to have been written in response to media
reports about the nomination.
"Many of you have asked about the recent speculation in the
media regarding Avenue," Gardner wrote in the memo obtained by
Reuters, adding that while "we cannot comment on media
speculation, I would like to provide you with a general update
on the firm."
In the memo, which Lasry did not sign, Gardner said the firm
was naming Richard Furst, who has been with the New York-based
hedge fund since 2004 and currently oversees the firm's European
investment strategy, as its chief investment officer.
"Rich will provide high-level oversight of our investment
strategies on a worldwide basis," Gardner wrote. Furst will
continue to manage the firm's Europe strategy.
The post is a new one for Avenue, said a person familiar
with the firm.
In the note, Gardner emphasized that she has "managed the
firm for nearly two decades as president and managing partner."
She also said the firm, with 200 employees, has multiple
investment teams led by several senior portfolio managers.
If the 53-year-old Lasry is nominated and approved by the
U.S. Senate, he would become the first hedge fund manager to
serve as an American ambassador.