LAS VEGAS — For nearly a decade, Anthony Scaramucci has served as the ringmaster for an annual hedge fund schmooze-fest in the desert during which industry insiders shake hands, close deals and talk politics. But this year, the prominent New York financier was expecting to pass the baton to someone else.
Scaramucci, known as the Mooch, had spent months last year championing Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations and explaining the political outsider to the Wall Street elite. After Trump won, Scaramucci sold his company, SkyBridge Capital, and prepared to take a White House job.
“I was offered a job by the administration. The job didn’t materialize,” Scaramucci told a crowd huddled into a hotel ballroom in Las Vegas. “I didn’t expect to be here, to be honest.”
So now Scaramucci is back at the Bellagio Hotel mingling with financial insiders at the over-the-top SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, known as SALT. He joked onstage with hedge fund giants Daniel S. Loeb and Bill Ackman, both of whom Scaramucci has known for years. Former vice president Joe Biden was greeted with a standing ovation and told those assembled that he hasn’t ruled out running for president. “I never thought [Hillary Clinton] was the correct candidate. I thought I was the correct candidate,” he said.
Meanwhile, comedian Steve Harvey made an appearance with an entourage of at least six people. At night, the nearly 2,000 attendees packed concerts by the Gipsy Kings and Duran Duran or stayed up late at the casino. Scaramucci glided through the crowd easily, but at times appeared conscious of being a conspicuous presence. “You guys are a lot cheaper than my therapist so I figured I would share,” he said after explaining that he still supported President Trump.
Scaramucci’s return comes at a challenging time for hedge fund managers. Despite their reputations as Wall Street titans, more than 1,000 hedge funds closed last year and many have struggled to beat the returns investors can achieve by investing in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.
One afternoon during the conference, Jeffrey Gundlach, Wall Street’s “Bond King,” appeared by hologram broadcast from a Hollywood studio and acknowledged a shift among investors to passive investing. The shift, he said as his imagine occasionally flickered onstage, would not last. “The reports of death of active management are greatly exaggerated,” said Gundlach, the chief executive of Doubleline, which has more than $105 billion in assets.
During the presidential campaign, Scaramucci, a talkative and relentless self-promoter, was one of Trump’s most active surrogates, often appearing on television, defending and explaining the Republican. He originally supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for the Republican presidential nomination, and then former Florida governor Jeb Bush before throwing his support behind Trump and tapping his Wall Street network as a fundraiser. (Scaramucci declared his “love” of Bush as the former Florida governor prepared to appear on the final day of the conference.)
After the election, he appeared set to take a position at the White House coordinating the administration’s engagement with the U.S. business and political community. The job was compared to the position held by one of President Barack Obama’s most powerful advisers, Valerie Jarrett.
But to secure the job, Scaramucci needed to separate himself from SkyBridge Capital, which takes money from wealthy investors and parcels it out to hedge funds. Scaramucci, who started the firm in 2005, sold his stake to Chinese billionaire Chen Feng’s HNA Group and RON Transatlantic EG in January.
But shortly after the deal connected to China, the White House job evaporated, leaving Scaramucci searching for a second act. He joked during one session that maybe his next job would involve flipping burgers at McDonald’s. “You have to dust yourself off in life and move on,” he said at another point.
There is one thing Scaramucci seemed sure about. Despite being snubbed for a White House job, he stands by his support of Trump, noting the need to address the country’s income inequality.
“You may not like the president, you might like the president, but we have to fix this problem whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican,” Scaramucci said. “The rich people in this room, the wealthy people, you don’t want to live in a barbed-wire-encased security perimeter in your McMansion like they do in Latin America. So we have to fix this problem.”
And, it appears, he hasn’t given up on potential life in Washington. “To the extent the president needs me, I will be available to him,” Scaramucci said, adding that he was “ready to serve.”