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2017-11-02 15:01:03
Robert Mercer, Bannon Patron, Is Leaving Helm of $50 Billion Hedge Fund

Robert Mercer, a billionaire investor who is a big financial backer of many conservative causes and a patron of the former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon, is stepping down as co-chief executive of Renaissance Technologies, the giant hedge fund.

Mr. Mercer sent a letter to investors and pension advisers on Thursday morning in which he said he would step down. A copy of the letter was reviewed by The New York Times.

In the letter, Mr. Mercer said he would leave his post on Jan. 1, 2018, and would also leave the hedge fund’s board. He said he would remain active on the research side of the fund, which makes trades using complex mathematical equations.

The one-paragraph letter to investors did not give a reason for Mr. Mercer’s decision. His involvement in conservative politics became a lightning rod for criticism during and after the presidential election.

But in a letter to the employees of the hedge fund, with the subject line “past, present, and future,” Mr. Mercer acknowledged the public scrutiny he has faced since President Trump’s election.

Describing himself as a fan of small government, he sought to distance himself from polarizing figures, including Mr. Bannon. “I have great respect for Mr. Bannon, and from time to time I do discuss politics with him,” Mr. Mercer wrote. “However, I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically. Those decisions do not always align with Mr. Bannon’s.”

Mr. Bannon now works at Breitbart News, a conservative news outlet that has been funded in part by Mr. Mercer. In the letter on Thursday, Mr. Mercer said that he was selling his stake in Breitbart to his daughters “for personal reasons.”

Mr. Mercer could not immediately be reached for comment.

Beyond donating to political campaigns, Mr. Mercer was a large financial backer of Cambridge Analytica, a voter-data firm that worked with the presidential campaign of Mr. Trump.

The hedge fund, commonly known as RenTech, was founded by James Simons, a prominent supporter of Democratic causes and candidates, including Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Mr. Mercer, a former computer coder who worked at I.B.M. before moving to Renaissance, is known for being shy and idiosyncratic. A model-train aficionado, he hosts a well-known holiday costume party at his Long Island estate, known as Owl’s Nest, that has attracted guests including, last year, Mr. Trump and his top advisers.

Renaissance manages more than $50 billion in assets. Its main funds that are open to outside investors have been doing well this year, with each of them up more than 10 percent through October.