Renaissance Technologies founder Jim Simons has named the hedge fund’s chief executive Peter Brown as sole chairman, a position many expected to go to his son Nathaniel Simons, who was named a co-chair alongside his father last year.
Father and son will stand down as co-chairs but remain on the board as directors, according to regulatory filings on Thursday. The move indicates that the elder Mr Simons is stepping up preparations to hand over the firm he founded almost four decades ago to the next generation. Renaissance runs $60bn in assets.
Mr Simons, 83, named his son as co-chairman of Renaissance in January 2020, in what appeared to be a sure sign that the younger Mr Simons would take over from his father. He had spent 13 years at the firm as a principal before leaving to pursue climate change-related projects.
“I believe it is time: this transition has been many years in the making, and Peter Brown, our incoming chairman, is more than ready to take on the responsibility,” Mr Simons said in a statement.
The move comes at a difficult time for Renaissance, which has struggled to navigate the market volatility since the coronavirus pandemic began. Its Renaissance Institutional Equities Fund ended 2020 down close to 20 per cent, while its Renaissance Institutional Diversified Alpha declined by 31 per cent, according to people close to the firm.
Meanwhile the firm’s flagship Medallion fund, which ejected outside investors in 2005 and is only open to the firm’s own employees, gained 76 per cent last year, according to a report by Institutional Investor.
The elder Mr Simons stepped back from the day-to-day management of Renaissance in 2010 when he handed over the reins to Mr Brown and Robert Mercer. The two lieutenants shared the role until 2017 when Mr Mercer departed the firm due to controversy around his backing of president Donald Trump and media outlet Breitbart News.
The board chairmanship will be another title for Mr Brown, who is currently president and CEO of the firm. A representative for Renaissance did not comment on the board moves but said Mr Brown has been running the group for the past decade.
Succession planning has become a key challenge facing the hedge fund industry as it matures. Many of the ageing founders who enjoyed huge success in its golden years and are synonymous with the groups they built have struggled to name successors.
Bridgewater Associates, the hedge fund manager founded by Ray Dalio, has had a number of chief executives over the past decade. Last year it named David McCormick, a former Treasury official, to the role.
Mr Simons, a former cold war codebreaker who founded Renaissance in 1982, is also stepping back from the family’s Simons Foundation, which sponsors research in mathematics and the basic sciences.