Duty-Free Billionaire’s Family Office Shuts Investment Team

Transformation Amidst Disruption What’s Next for Family Offices

(Bloomberg) — Duty free shop DFS Group Ltd. co-founder Robert Miller’s family office is disbanding its own investment team, in favor of handing its roughly $2 billion investment portfolio to external managers, said people familiar with the matter.

The family office is winding down Hong Kong-based SAIL Advisors Ltd., its 20-year-old investment office, the people said, requesting not to be named because the matter is private. Harold Yoon, SAIL’s chief investment officer, and Adrian Ng, who looked after its private equity and venture capital investments, were among those whose regulatory licenses with the firm were removed recently, according to public data.

The family office is in talks with firms including Blackstone Inc. to take over its existing investments. SAIL employees either declined to comment, or did not reply to emails or social media messages seeking comment. Blackstone declined to comment.

The move marks the end of what was one of the most active investors in hedge funds not only in Asia, but also globally, said people familiar with the firm. Its slow decline took place against a shifting industry landscape, in which the bargaining power of family offices waned against larger institutions including Blackstone, which has $1 trillion under management.

Miller co-founded duty-free shopping giant DFS in Hong Kong with Charles Feeney. The latter died at 92 in October, having given away nearly all of his $8 billion fortune, the Washington Post reported then. Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton agreed to buy a majority stake in DFS in 1996.

SAIL was set up in 2003 to make investments for his family office and external investors. Then called Search Investment Group, Miller’s family office has since been renamed the Mari-Cha Group. His daughters went on to acquire famous last names and titles: Pia Getty; Marie-Chantal, Crown Princess of Greece; and Alexandra von Fürstenberg, the New York Times reported in 2011.

Born in the US but a Hong Kong resident since 1960, 90-year-old Miller set up his family office in the early 1970s, according to the company’s website.

As one of the oldest and biggest funds-of-hedge-funds managers in Asia, SAIL’s alumni include Eliza Lau, who set up Synergy Fund Management; Denise Hu, founding partner of Archer Asia, the Rockhampton Group-backed fund of hedge funds manager; and Michael Garrow, who went on to co-found Hong Kong-based HS Group, a strategic investor in new and young hedge funds.

In 2017, SAIL returned money from other clients in its fund of funds business to focus exclusively on investing the wealth for Miller’s family office, citing rising regulatory and operational costs. Investors were balking at hedge funds which charged high fees and generated mediocre returns. They were also increasingly bypassing middlemen and their extra layer of fees to allocate directly to hedge funds.

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