I now return to my core expertise - writing about Ismaili money managers. Today, Moez Kassam, founder of Anson Funds.
Anson was so named because Moez, as a 90s kid, was a huge fan of the Hanson brothers. But he wanted to avoid any trademark issues, so he dropped the "H". Moez started investing in 1999, borrowing money from a classmate while studying at the University of Western Ontario. From the start, his strength was shorting, he made money from the implosion of Pets.com and Mamma.com. It’s pretty unusual to start on the short side. But musically, he's very conventional. His favorite Hanson song is MMMBop.
Anson's flagship Master fund was launched in 2007 with $8m from friends and family, in partnership with a more senior Dallas-based investor, Bruce Winson. The fund had strong numbers in the first three years, compounding at 14.9%, including being up 1.8% in 2008. Bruce now primarily runs Anson's operations and makes long picks, while Moez focuses on shorts.
Anson, along with West Face Capital, was sued by Catalyst Capital as part of the claim that "Wolfpack Conspirators" worked to undermine Callidus, the distressed lender. Callidus, of course, got in trouble itself, so that it could better relate to its clients. I was reluctant to write about Anson as I was not familiar with them and I don't want to get in any trouble. Therefore, the harshest thing I am prepared to say about Moez Kassam is that his hair - under the guidance of an assertive hairstylist - has tremendous potential for normality.
Anson Master returned 19% in 2018 and was compounding at 11% since July 2007, net of 2/20 fees, compared to about 7.6% for the S&P 500. (I don't know what the currency effects might be.) They had a worst drawdown of 18.60%. Much of the value added was between 2007 and 2009. In the bull market following the 2008 crisis, Anson has not outperformed the S&P 500. Nevertheless, Anson has some of the better numbers I have seen among Canadian hedge funds, especially if it aims for market neutral exposure as it is claimed. The fund is down about 3% this year as of around May. The fund has about $366m AUM. I don't know what's noteworthy about any of this that warrants me writing about. Self-made mogul Gary Ng's watch collection is probably worth more.
Anson places creative trades, including trades that rely on secondary financings. They financed a lot of pot companies. There are industry rumours that Anson ran into trouble with one of its cannabis shorts - Tilray. Tilray went from $30 to more than $150 in a few months. Apparently, Anson was caught in the short squeeze. Whether you want to call that a kerfuffle, an imbroglio or a brouhaha, I don't know what any of those words mean. But the opposite could just as well be true: Moez was quoted in 2019 on Tilray, saying “You knew this was a best-in-class business, I think Tilray will be considered cheap in a few years.” It’s $7 now, so maybe he’s already been proven right. Anson might have been long, short of one or more of Tilray securities, sequentially or concurrently. They might have made or lost money or broken even. I hope I covered all my bases.
Moez is involved with numerous charities like Doctors Without Borders, Kids Cook and Lifeline Syria. If there's one common thread between his various charitable endeavours, besides social climbing, it's an admirable sense of social justice. His empathy was forged early in life. As a teenager, he was diagnosed with a condition that afflicts him to this day, curly hair. And yet, despite knowing that he could never quite achieve his idol Taylor Hanson's hair, Moez has found the will to carry on and thrive.
Moez is 39 these days. I am told by obviously jealous types that he struts around like a rockstar. Moez seems happy with a high profile. Unusually for a hedge fund manager, there is a treasure trove of images online from his colourful life. He has an unusually detailed Wikipedia entry for someone of his stature. Toronto Life chronicled his 3-day interfaith wedding. I, of course, am a big fan of interfaith dialogue. One interesting topic for such dialogue might be why the family foundation has given $125k to the Aga Khan Foundation, but only $5k to the United Jewish Appeal.
If you can't get enough Moez, watch this video :
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