Meet the Diggles: Asia’s biggest family office launch

Hedge fund manager Steve Diggle is opening up his family office to outside investors, and sets out all of his new strategies.
Meet the Diggles: Asia’s biggest family office launch

Do you want to be part of Steve Diggle’s family office? You can join the family if you wish, when he opens up Vulpes Investment Management to third-party investors on May 1.

The family is injecting approximately $200 million into the new Vulpes venture. The firm's name is sourced from Isaiah Berlin's essay of the 'Fox and the Hedgehog', an idea that derived originally from the Greek poet Archilochus. Vulpes is the resourceful fox who is knowledgeable about many things.

The $200 million sum is believed to be a record for Asian founders backing a new launch, and the Vulpes firm intends to do many diverse things.

Diggle’s former fund Artradis, which he co-founded with Richard Magides, wound up this week, and he is inviting back investors in the Artradis Barracuda fund at the same high-water mark to participate in a similar long Asian volatility and arbitrage product. 

Artradis made $2.7 billion in profits for investors in 2007 and 2008 and has given back about $700 million in losses since then. About a third of the Artradis team will be joining Diggle in the new enterprise, which will be based in Singapore with another office in Geneva.

Many of the rest of the staff have become wealthy people as a result of their tenure at Artradis and he envisages that they may be going off to enjoy their money.

So apart from the volatility product, what else is going to be on offer from Vulpes?

“A factor in volatility spikes is going to be a likely repetition of money printing,” he says. “But you need to have other ways of protecting yourself. I did think about gold as an alternatives product, but then that’s really a fiat currency too, as it has no use except for being something we adorn our wives and mistresses with.”

So he has decided to work on the lines of a product that invests in agriculture. He says he has already been buying up farms and has an executive team that manages them, growing soy and corn and breeding cattle. That was during the time that Vulpes was purely a family office operation, under the (ongoing) guidance of GFIA’s sage, Peter Douglas.

Vulpes will also take over the Artradis Russian Fund, managed by sibling Martin Diggle, which is up 65% in four years. Also Vulpes will take over the Testudo Fund, which was an internal multi-strat product for Artradis employees, who reinvested bonuses back in the firm, but didn’t want all that to be concentrated in volatility instruments. Lastly, there will be a Vulpes product focusing on the biotechnology industry.

Steve Diggle says he has been receiving interest from folk outside to join the team and is hiring an ex-Lehman colleague as COO (name not disclosed yet), and former Rabobank executive Bert Verdicchio as chief risk officer -- a role in which he points out the incumbent must be tough enough to stand up to him, argue and have clout, even though Diggle is the founder.

Not literally ‘clout’ though -- as in his prime, Diggle was an Oxford boxing blue, and his skills from administering beatings to effete Cambridge boys may still lurk somewhere deep within.

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