(Adds details of executive move, investment performance, industry background)
By Svea Herbst-Bayliss
BOSTON, July 3 (Reuters) - Hedge fund superstar Andreas Halvorsen reorganized the top ranks of his Viking Global Investors this week by allowing one of his co-chief investment officers to take a sabbatical and handing the reins to the other co-leader to perform the job alone.
The firm also told investors that it gained 6.6 percent in the first half of the year, after wiping away losses suffered when technology-oriented stocks tumbled in March, one investor in the fund said on Thursday.
Dan Sundheim, who shared the position of chief investment officer with Tom Purcell, “is now sole CIO and manager of the Central Portfolio,” Halvorsen wrote in a letter.
Purcell “has decided to take a well-deserved sabbatical for the next six months,” said the letter, which was dated July 1 and was seen by Reuters.
Viking was not immediately available for comment.
With some $24 billion in assets under management, Viking is one of the hedge fund industry’s biggest and most closely watched firms.
The reorganization comes two years after another senior manager, James Parsons, left the firm, and also raises questions among some clients about succession planning at big-name hedge fund firms.
Before Parsons left in 2012, David Ott, who co-founded the firm with Halvorsen, departed in 2010. Dris Upitis, who had also been a management committee member, resigned in early 2011.
Halvorsen, who co-founded Viking in 1999 after working for industry legend Julian Robertson, emphasized how what he considers Viking’s strong team culture allows work to be shared among more people, removing pressure from the one or two top executives.
“It’s exciting that occasional realignments allow us to recognize proven investors and charge younger talent to contribute in new ways,” he wrote in the letter.
Purcell, who managed the Financials team, is expected to return after spending time with family and recharging his batteries, the letter said. He will remain on the Executive and Management Committees.
Viking also reorganized the investment team, with Sundheim now working directly with six portfolio mangers to identify the firm’s best ideas. The six managers are: Paul Enright, Ning Jin, Hani Sabbagh, Scott Zinober, Jeff Busconi and Ben Jacobs.
For Viking, traditionally one of the industry’s best performers, 2014 has been difficult. Heavy losses on tech-oriented stocks hurt performance in March.
But returns have come back, with the firm telling investors that it was up 1.1 percent in June, leaving it up 6.6 percent for the first six months of the year.
Many hedge fund managers closely guard their returns because their portfolios are private, so any information about how some of the industry’s top funds performed is closely watched.
Editing by Marguerita Choy and Matthew Lewis