U.S. Markets

Och-Ziff board member Barr quits amid battle over who will run firm

BOSTON (Reuters) - Och-Ziff Capital Management director William Barr is leaving the hedge fund’s board at the end of the month, marking the first visible fallout from a battle over who will run the firm in the future.

The hedge fund firm said in a regulatory filing on Monday that Barr’s decision to step down from the seven-member board “relates to a disagreement over CEO succession, as well as business and governance plans for the Company.” Barr notified the firm of his plans last week and Och-Ziff made the news public on Monday.

The firm, which invests $32 billion and is one of only a few publicly traded hedge funds, made headlines last week with news that its succession plans had been ripped up.

The firm told investors late last month that it was “not the right time” to promote co-Chief Investment Officer James “Jimmy” Levin to CEO. The firm also said that founder, chairman and chief executive officer Daniel Och and the firm’s board of directors hoped that the 34-year-old Levin, Och’s longtime protégé and heir apparent, would remain as co-CIO. David Windreich is the other co-CIO and is also a board member.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the board had wanted to move ahead with the succession plan to let Levin take over this year but that Och soured on Levin and refused to accept the plan. Och, through a spokesman, and Levin did not respond to requests last week for comment.

Barr, a lawyer who had served as a U.S. Attorney General, joined Och-Ziff’s board in 2016. He sent a one paragraph note informing Och and others of his plans on January 23.

“This is to advise you that I am resigning from the board of directors, effective at the end of this month (January). If that timing causes any difficulties for the company, please let me know.” The email was attached as an exhibit to the filing.

He serves as Chairman of Och-Ziff’s Corporate Responsibility and Compliance Committee and as a member of the Audit Committee and the Nominating Committee.

Och-Ziff built itself into one of the hedge fund industry’s biggest firms by staying out of the limelight and delivering steady returns that delighted pension funds.

But it made headlines when a subsidiary admitted to bribing African officials and after paying $412 million to settle criminal and civil charges with the U.S. government. This prompted clients to pull out billions, shrinking assets from $50 billion at its peak before the financial crisis in 2005.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman