by Mike Vogel
Connecticut billionaire Edward Lampert in July became the highest profile hedge fund manager to move himself and his operation to Florida. He’s not alone. As Florida Trend reported last year, four hedge funds looking to escape high taxes had relocated from the Northeast to a single building in West Palm Beach.
Kelly Smallridge, CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, a few months ago penned a letter to 30 randomly selected Manhattan-based hedge funds touting the county’s appeal. Someone shared the letter with the New York Post, which ran an article that prompted an interview the next day on CNBC. “After that, my life changed forever,” Smallridge said in February. She had so many inquiries from hedge funds that she hired someone to deal with them. “I had never seen that kind of wealth come in, working wealth coming in, which is still superwealthy,” she said in February. “I met with one today. I meet with one Wednesday. I meet with one Friday.”
Smallridge is more accustomed to recruits who want light industrial or distribution space and an incentive package and pay $65,000 on average. The hedge funds want 10,000 square feet in a Class A building with a water view and pay an average of $1 million. “Incentives are not at the top of their list, but private education is,” she says. The markets they’re most interested in are West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, equestrian country Wellington, Jupiter and Delray Beach/Manalapan.
“Gov. Scott, of course, is helping,” following up with his personal pitch, she says. “It’s just spread like crazy. It’s a new wave of wealth in this county,” she says, and, “it cost me postage. That’s it.”