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Rating:A Rocky ETF Marriage Evolves as XShares Hunts Funds Not Rated 1.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Rocky ETF Marriage Evolves as XShares Hunts Funds

Reported by Erin Kello

Has the partnership between XShares and Grail Partners fallen on rocky times? The recent departure of an XShares CEO and Grail Partners' decision to form its own effort to bring actively managed ETFs to market is causing some industry insiders to wonder about the strength of the relationship. Yet, insiders at one of the companies say the partnership remains on solid ground.

Not so, says Don Putnam, the founder of Grail Partners, when asked whether the relationship is troubled. In fact Grail is considering putting more money into the New York City-based XShares' next round of funding, said Putnam in an email interview with The MFWire.

XShares spokesman John McInerney told The MFWire declined to comment on the two firms' relationship. He added that XShares has some announcements to make in the future.

The relationship between the two firms began in January of 2007 when Grail invested $10 million in the fledgling XShares co-founded by Jeffery Feldman and Anthony Dudzinski. In late September of last year, XShares also named Grail partner Bill Henson as the chief executive officer of its holding corporation, XShares Group, LLC.

At the time insiders told The MFWire that Henson had been placed at XShares by Grail to ensure that the second round of $10 million in funding that it had just received from European investors was used more wisely than the first round given to the company by Grail.

In October, Putnam told attendees at the Money Management Institutes's Managed Account Solutions Conference in New York City that XShares was planning to launch the industry's first actively managed ETFs. Putnam added that the paperwork had already been filed with the SEC.

In December, however, Grail made a move that could look to an outsider as an indication that it was hedging its bets against a failure by XShares. Grail filed to launch a parallel business line, Grail Alpha ETF Trust.

Meanwhile, XShares spokesman McInerney said that XShares is currently studying the opportunities that active ETFs present and will make an announcement when the time is right.

In e-mailed comments, Putnam told the MFWire that the formation of Grail's own active ETF company can only have a positive effect on its relationship with XShares.

"We hope they (XShares) will agree to be our 'Intel inside' for our products, and we will add the 'active ETF' secret sauce. There is going to be a great deal of product innovation and we think both firms will be working hard to develop new ideas," Putnam wrote.

In early April of this year, there was another occurrence that could be construed as bump in the relationship between the two companies. Dudzinski, currently CEO of XShares Advisors and president of XShares, LLC, told IndexUniverse.com in an interview that Bill Henson had left the company. Dudzinski told the online pub that Henson has taken an extended leave of absence at the end of the first quarter and that the company had no plans to replace him. Meanwhile, Putnam welcomed Henson back to Grail.

"We are glad to have him back - and the company (XShares) was glad to have him when he was there," wrote Putnam.

A industry insider told The MFWire that Henson was ousted by Feldman, whose position he took over when he joined the company in September. (Feldman remained chairman of the company at that time)

When asked about Henson's departure, McInerney told The MFWire that the company will have an management announcement in the near future.

As for the next round of capital raising, a source told The MFWire that the company is currently making the rounds of European investors in attempts to raise an additional $30 million. But it seems that XShares will be needing less than that from the Europeans.

Putnam told the MFWire that Grail "will likely put money into the next round."

What Grail may or may not put into the next round of funding will soon be known. McInerney said XShares expects to make an announcement on that matter in the coming days.  

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