By Lawrence Delevingne and Svea Herbst-Bayliss
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Anthony Scaramucci was soaking up plenty of love this week at his high-profile hedge fund conference even as his political ambitions remained in limbo.
The outspoken Wall Street figure in January agreed to sell his SkyBridge Capital LLC on the expectation of a public liaison job with U.S. President Donald Trump, whom he aggressively supported as a fundraiser and media commentator. But that role has not materialized.
The uncertainty over a White House position allowed Scaramucci to return to Las Vegas for SkyBridge’s ninth annual SALT event, which he founded after the 2008 financial crisis to boost his ailing business by promoting its brand and the broader industry.
“I was disappointed I didn’t get the (Trump) job, but living well is the best revenge,” Scaramucci told Reuters on the sidelines of the event at the Bellagio hotel.
Scaramucci has made his name over the years as an industry impresario who remembers almost everyone’s name and relishes being the center of a four-day swirl of investment-focused panel discussions, rosé-soaked pool parties and late night musical performances by Duran Duran and the Gipsy Kings.
He said he would know in coming weeks whether or not he would be working in Trump’s administration. He said he remains loyal to the president, whom he considers a friend and continues to support despite what some view as a tumultuous start to his tenure.
As a backup, Scaramucci, 53, is mulling a new business in asset management.
He told Reuters he discussed partnerships with China conglomerate HNA Group and professional investor Jon Najarian, including an online direct brokerage company or a venture to distribute investment products.
An HNA subsidiary, HNA Capital (U.S.) Holding, along with RON Transatlantic EG, are buying SkyBridge. Scaramucci said he thinks the deal will probably close in June following U.S. regulatory approvals.
Scaramucci said he would not start any business that would directly compete with New York-based SkyBridge, which manages approximately $11 billion in hedge fund investments. SkyBridge will be run by chief investment officer Ray Nolte and other managers following the sale of Scaramucci’s founding stake.
He could also remain involved with SALT, a distinct business from SkyBridge that he co-owns with Victor Oviedo and Kelly O’Connor, long-time associates involved with organizing the conference.
“If (Trump) wants me to serve, I’m ready to serve. If he doesn’t want me to serve that’s fine,” Scaramucci said. “I have no bitterness about it. It’s politics.”
CENTER OF ATTENTION
SALT is one the $3.2 trillion hedge fund industry’s most eagerly anticipated events, having drawn billionaire investors like Ken Griffin and David Tepper, former U.S. presidents like George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as sports and entertainment celebrities such as Will Smith and Kobe Bryant.
This year, some 1,900 guests paid thousands of dollars to hear speakers including former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and billionaire hedge fund managers Bill Ackman and Daniel Loeb.
For when the investing tips get overwhelming there are also sessions on mindfulness, a spa for neck rubs and a room full of makeup artists to aid in getting ready for evening parties.
Scaramucci, known to friends as “The Mooch,” strolled the hallways at the Bellagio, often stopping to shake a hand or pose for photos with the crowd.
“I’m certainly very happy to be here,” Scaramucci told Reuters.
Trump cabinet members were notably absent from the conference, however, especially after four secretaries, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, attended the Milken Institute’s Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, earlier this month.
Last year, Scaramucci arranged for Mnuchin, Trump’s national finance chair at the time, to attend SALT and meet potential campaign donors among the well-heeled crowd.
It would have been awkward to ask Trump associates to attend this year with his own future as an aide unknown, Scaramucci said.
With or without the Trump job, Scaramucci said he counts his blessings, including a resume stacked with a Harvard Law School degree and a Goldman Sachs stint as well as the founding of a successful business.
He noted several times at SALT that he has taken the high road after his bruising Washington setback, including in opening remarks on Wednesday. But he acknowledged being hurt that his elderly parents, including his mother who is battling cancer, were disinvited from Scaramucci’s swearing-in ceremony after it became clear the event would not proceed as planned.
Regardless, Scaramucci is looking ahead to what comes next.
“Although my obituary has been written by journalists and they are enjoyable to read, I’ll be around,” he said.
(Reporting by Lawrence Delevingne and Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Meredith Mazzilli)