Peter Adamson to manage Oprah’s money

By A. James Memmott

May 20, 2010 at 8:16am

As she is about to launch her own television channel, Oprah Winfrey has hired an experienced money manager to look after her billions in private wealth.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Winfrey has recruited Peter Adamson to set up and run what is known as a family office for her to handle her investments.

Adamson, 47, has been the chief investment officer for Eli Broad and his foundation. Broad, a West Coast philanthropist and art collector, made a fortune in real estate and finance.

According to the Journal, Adamson managed $2.5 billion for Broad and his foundations.

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey

An M.B.A. graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Adamson was an adviser to Texas billionaire Lee Bass and some of his brothers before joining Broad in 2001.

Earlier, he had been with McKinsey & Company, the global consultant firm.

As of September 2009, Winfrey had a net worth of $2.3 billion and ranked No. 141 on the Fortune magazine list of 400 richest Americans.

Her cable channel, The Oprah Winfrey Network, is expected to begin airing in January of next year.

Over the years, she has given away millions through her three foundations. The largest of these, the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, declared a value of $166 million in its 2008 filing with the Internal Revenue Service.

In establishing a family office to oversee her wealth, Winfrey joins other rich Americans who have moved away from using banks or trust offices to manage their money.

Among them, Michael Dell, the founder of Dell Computer, formed MSD Capital L.P., to manage his assets.

The 80-person firm, which is co-managed by Glenn F. Fuhrman and John C. Phelan, has offices in New York, Santa Monica, Calif., and London and more than $10 billion in assets.

Historically, offices managing family fortunes invested in stocks and bonds, the Journal reports. However, in recent times they have put more money into hedge funds and other investment vehicles.

Broad was an early leader in that shift, a practice that continued with Adamson as his investment advisor.

The strategy has worked, as the Broad foundations’ earnings have outpaced those of similar institutions.

Given the increased complexity of investing, managers of family offices are more and more in demand, the Journal reported in 2007.

One way of bringing them on board is to offer them the opportunity to invest their own funds along with those of the family.

Participant family-office managers took home a median figure of $1.9 million in 2006, the Journal reported, much more than the median take-home pay of managers who didn’t participate.

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