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Third Point founder Daniel Loeb takes over as Munib Islam leaves firm

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By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

BOSTON, May 19 (Reuters) - Billionaire investor Daniel Loeb is taking back the reins as sole chief investment officer at his hedge fund Third Point LLC, less than one year after he appointed long-time colleague Munib Islam to be his co-chief investment officer, according to a letter the firm sent its investors.

Loeb, who is about to celebrate his 25th anniversary at Third Point, told investors about his decision in a three-paragraph letter seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

Loeb wrote that he is excited about "investing in this period of change and turmoil." He thanked Islam for his many contributions over the years and said that he expects their friendship to endure.

The shake-up in the top ranks of the one of world's most closely watched hedge funds comes as Third Point laid the groundwork for succession last year by promoting Islam to co-chief investment officer. Islam initially came to Third Point straight out of Stanford Business School in 2004 before leaving in 2008. He returned as head of equity research in 2011.

Islam worked closely with Loeb on shaping some of the firm's biggest activist campaigns at companies such as Sony Corp and Nestle SA.

Islam, 46, will retire from New York-based Third Point but will continue to advise it in a consulting capacity until the end of the year.

Islam was not immediately available for comment and a representative for Third Point declined to comment.

Over the years, Loeb has cemented his reputation as a focused and savvy investor who has navigated previous financial crises successfully. While people close to the firm say there was no break between the men, Loeb felt strongly that this crisis demanded his leadership, alone.

While Third Point, like many hedge funds, lost money in the first three months of 2020, the firm gained 7% in April as Loeb shifted focus. Over its lifetime, Third Point has returned roughly 14% a year.

Third Point is down 10.4% for 2020 after having gained 17% in 2019. Assets shrunk to $14 billion this year from $16 billion at the end of last year.

Third Point has built a reputation as an influential activist shareholder by pushing for changes at companies such as Sony, Prudential Plc and Campbell Soup Co in the last few years.

In an earlier letter sent to investors in April, Loeb said that Third Point had not adequately prepared for a possible full-blown pandemic and was caught flat-footed when the world was essentially shut down to blunt the virus' spread.

Its heavy bets on stocks, especially in the aerospace, airline and auto-related sectors, hurt performance which was down 16% at one portfolio in the first three months of 2020, according to an earlier letter.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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