Jeff Maillet, founder of the Chicago-based Noble Asset Management and one of the earliest institutional players in the loan market, has opened his doors to outside investors with the launch of a multiple strategy fund. With a $1 million minimum, Maillet is looking for investors from the U.S., Japan and Europe, but will keep investments in domestic U.S. dollar assets. "That is where our expertise lies," Maillet said.
The portfolio will be diversified across multiple sectors and Maillet said it would be "Typically deep value, full spectrum of capital structure, everything from equities up through senior debt. Pretty much dictated by return profiles as well as liquidity." He later added, "Value-type situations that can be performing and non-performing type issues." The fund will go long and short in special and distressed situations.
Maillet set up Noble two years ago and has been heavily involved in the market, but said now was the right time for the company's move. "[With] two years of performance under our belts, we have people in place and the sales and marketing folks in place," he said. "Building these types of companies I take my hat off to guys that can do it in one day usually it does take a period of time. We've concluded that part of the process, and we're moving forward." He said the firm is currently hiring, but would not comment on assets under management, how big the firm is looking to be or what positions it is looking to fill.
Although he would not talk about specific investments going forward, he noted that the most interesting situation he has been involved in recently is the Kmart-Sears, Roebuck & Co. merger. Noble had investments in both companies. "Those were deep value opportunities that we were in fairly early on and we took advantage of them. This is all based on fundamental research."
Conceding that many managers have similar backgrounds--there are more similarities in the business than differences, Maillet said--he points to his experience to distinguish himself from the crowd. "I think, by and large, I've managed more in the way of assets than most managers out there have managed," he said. "I've always been on the buy-side and I've always had portfolio management-type positions, so I think those are positives."
Before founding Noble, he was at John Nuveen Co. and spent 10 years at Van Kampen Investments before leaving in 1999. He also had a brief spell at FrontPoint Partners after Nuveen. During that time the market has "overwhelmingly improved" especially in terms of liquidity and trading. Still, he would like to see more of an electronic market for loans and quicker closing. "It seems that in fact [closing] is pretty slow compared to the way it used to be," he said.
Since officially announcing he was open for business Feb. 8, Maillet said he has received calls expressing interest, but was tightlipped about whom, saying it was highly confidential.