* Ruddock to focus on arts, charity work
* Lansdowne manages $12.4 bln
* Ruddock received controversial knighthood in 2012
By Laurence Fletcher
LONDON, March 4 Lansdowne Partners, one of the world's best-known hedge fund managers, said that Paul Ruddock is to retire as chief executive to focus on his work in the arts and charity sectors.
Ruddock, who ranks among Britain's richest financiers, co-founded Lansdowne in 1998 with Steven Heinz and has been a major donor to the arts and to Britain's ruling Conservative party.
The 54-year-old, who doesn't make investment decisions in the firm's funds, will hand over his responsibilities at the end of June but will remain a significant shareholder, the firm said in a statement on Monday.
Lansdowne, a major shareholder in Lloyds Banking Group and Manchester United, manages $12.4 billion and employs 85 people.
Its main fund, the $8.9 billion Developed Markets fund, returned 18 percent last year and is up more than 7.5 percent so far this year.
Ruddock, whose personal fortune was estimated at 270 million pounds ($407 million) in last year's Sunday Times Rich List, received a knighthood in 2012 amid criticism from some commentators over the firm's role in short-selling - betting against - bank shares during the credit crisis.
He is chairman of London's Victoria & Albert museum and a trustee of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
"I now feel it is an appropriate moment to step down from Lansdowne to focus on my interests in the arts and helping address social issues," Ruddock said in the statement.