In 1992, while still in her late 20s, Karen Finerman co-founded hedge fund outfit Metropolitan Capital Advisors. And this was after she'd already punched the clock as lead research analyst for the risk arbitrage department at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, and before that as a trader at First City Capital, a risk arbitrage fund for the Belzberg family. Finerman's nothing if not fast out of the gate.
Today, she's built MCA to include six different hedge funds totaling about $350 million, all with a value-focus; according to independent hedge fund reporting agencies, Metropolitan's flagship fund has delivered an average return of 13.5 percent since inception compared to the S&P's 9.4-percent return during the same period.
And Finerman is not afraid to do battle to keep those returns high. On several occasions she and her firm have led and won hostile proxy contests to take control of underperforming public companies-and according to her firm she is the only woman in the U.S. to have done so multiple times. Last year, for instance, she started a proxy fight for Cyberonics, a biotech firm which is experimenting with treatments for epilepsy, and managed to bring in a new CEO who within a year returned the company to profitability.
In an unexpected twist to her career, she joined CNBC's Fast Money last year as "The Chairwoman" and one of the daily commentators. The gig came about after the producers read a mention of her in Traders Magazine, a sister publication of USB. What was going to be the odd substitute spot quickly turned into a daily position when the producers realized Finerman brought not only a woman's perspective, but a longer term investing outlook than the rest of the panelists.
Finerman is having fun with it. "It's interesting, exciting and high profile," she says. Going in she had two main goals: to increase the profile of her own business and to help get people comfortable with the idea of a woman investing money.
Finerman is a big proponent of women in the hedge fund world and what they can bring to the analysis of stocks. Six of the top eight executives at her firm are women. "There's less hubris with women, and they're more comfortable saying I was wrong, to know when they are wrong and to get out."
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