Coen Weddepohl Coen Weddepohl

The real recovery is still coming

In Alumni
Written by  Jos Cortenraad Wednesday, 17 September 2014 09:30
In 1994, Coen Weddepohl from Apeldoorn made a point of choosing the fledgling programme in International Management at Maastricht University. “I was attracted to Problem-Based Learning and the international character of the university. I knew I wanted to go abroad since I was 15.” Twenty years later, Weddepohl is a partner in a hedge fund in the heart of New York.

Not yet 40, Weddepohl has already had a rich career. But his CV is not without its gaps. “That’s right”, he says cheerfully from his apartment on the Upper West Side of New York. “After working at Robeco on the first hedge fund in the Netherlands, I was approached by a head hunter. They wanted me to help Swiss Life, the parent company of Zwitserleven in Zurich, manage its hedge fund investments worldwide. It was a great offer, but I’d just had a serious car accident. I did the first interview in a wheelchair and the second on crutches. The prognosis wasn’t good; I was never going to play competitive sports again.”


His proposal to Swiss Life was an unusual one: how about a loan for a world trip as a fringe benefit? “I wanted to head for the mountains, go climbing, get my body in order again. To my surprise, they agreed. I spent four months travelling through South America, working hard on my recovery. And I came back reborn.”
The second ‘gap’ in the timeline is in 2004. Weddepohl seems to have spent the year under a rock. “I had leukaemia, blood cancer. Thankfully, after a few years we found a bone marrow donor. But before the transplant I went travelling in Asia and ran the New York marathon. I wanted to – I just had to – first think things over, sort things out. Then I had the treatment and made a full recovery.”


Weddepohl continued his career in London at Man Group, the world’s largest hedge fund, where he set up a private equity fund for ‘green’ investments. The fund raised more than a billion dollars, but the job didn’t last. “The valuation was disappointing. So the chairman and I resigned and, together with six partners, set up Earth Capital Partners. It also invests in sustainable energy sources: sun, wind, biomass. Our goal was to give sustainability a boost.”
But the fund didn’t take off and the partners fell out. Weddepohl decided to take a year off and, with his Italian wife, drive from London to India. In late 2009 they moved to Rio de Janeiro, where he became a partner and shareholder of the private equity fund Alterna, which also specialises in sustainable investments.


At Alterna, Weddepohl was the driving force behind major deals with plantation owners and ethanol producers. It was four years of extensive travel, hard work and little time at home. “I learned and experienced a lot, but ultimately it wasn’t sustainable for me, and certainly not for my wife. So we moved to New York. For two years I spent one week in the US, the next in Brazil. Eventually, late last year, I quit. Brazil seems great from the outside looking in, but it’s not an easy country for foreign investors. There’s a lot of corruption and our company kept getting hit by new, restrictive legislation. I’m still a shareholder, although it’s now called Brazil Logistics Group.” 


Travel, moving, international challenges – these are the common themes running through Weddepohl’s career. “That’s how I like it. After high school in Apeldoorn I checked out pretty much all universities in the Netherlands. The choice for Maastricht was easy. Problem-Based Learning really appealed to me. Fewer lectures, more personal initiative, solving problems together. And the high proportion of foreign students only made the system more attractive. Germans look at financial issues differently than do Brits or the Dutch. I learned to view questions from different angles. That’s something that came in handy in my career, and I also see it in other UM graduates. They can hold their own against people from top universities like Harvard and Oxford.”
Weddepohl looks back on his four years in Maastricht with pleasure. “It was a fantastic time. You build a special bond with people; friendships that are never the same again. Every year we rent an estate near the city with a hundred guys from my student association and spend a weekend reminiscing. It’s like going back in time, and the bond we had comes flooding back.”


In New York, Weddepohl is studying price patterns in financial markets and recruiting investors for the Niederhoffer funds. Although the crisis seems to be over, it’s no easy task. “The financial world took some major hits. Supervision of banks has been tightened and the financial market is under a big magnifying glass. There’s still too little liquidity in the market. Banks are sitting on their money, mostly forced to in order to meet stricter requirements. Companies in the US and Europe are finding it hard to get their hands on capital. Growth in emerging economies is faltering. I’m not saying we’re heading for a new crisis, but I wouldn’t count on a real recovery for another three to five years.”

Coen Weddepohl (1975) graduated from International Management at UM in 1998. He also studied psychology for two years. He did his internship at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, and has been working abroad since 1999. 

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