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The pride of Portus started small

Self-described math whiz behind beleaguered firm puts on a happy face

Boaz Manor, the public face of Portus Alternative Asset Management Inc., describes himself as a mathematician with a "passion for alternative investments."

Mr. Manor, who is in his late 20s, co-founded the hedge fund company two years ago with partner Michael Mendelson. The pair had almost no experience in hedge funds when they started Portus but it now boasts 26,000 clients and $800-million in assets.

Although Mr. Mendelson is listed as chief executive officer and is considered by many in the industry as the driving force behind Portus, the firm is built largely around Mr. Manor's image. His picture graces the company's website, which also includes a lengthy video presentation by Mr. Manor on the virtues of hedge funds. He has also written a book called A Guide to Alternative Investing and yesterday's letter designed to calm nervous clients was signed by Mr. Manor.

According to company records, Mr. Manor guides the company's investments and he's responsible for correlation analysis, portfolio manager selection, product design and structuring, statistical computations and risk management.

One of his qualifications, the company says, is that he "graduated magna cum laude in high algebra and computer modelling from the University of Toronto." However, a university official said the U of T hasn't used that designation in decades and the current term is "distinction" or "high distinction."

The university confirmed that Mr. Manor graduated in 1996 with a bachelor of applied science. He graduated with honours but did not receive any special distinction.

According to company documents, Mr. Manor got his start in the financial business in 1998 when he met Mr. Mendelson, a graduate of the University of Texas who founded a Canadian company called Southview Capital Corp. Mr. Manor became a partner in Southview, which had investments in about a dozen mining companies.

Around 1999, the two formed KBL Capital Partners Inc., a private merchant bank. KBL made a handful of investments in the booming technology sector, including stakes in Softquad Software, a defunct Toronto computer company, and I Join Systems Inc., a U.S. computer business. "They were nice guys," said an investment dealer who worked with both men then. "They were hungry. They really hustled."

By late 2002, Messrs. Manor and Mendelson considered starting a labour-sponsored investment fund. However, they opted for hedge funds instead and created Paradigm Asset Management Inc.

They changed the name to Portus a year later after acquiring a Montreal-based company called Portus Investment Inc. The name change also came at the request of a New York hedge fund company called Paradigm Global Advisors LLC and its chairman and CEO James Park. The two companies had a consulting agreement but it was terminated around that time.

Mr. Manor has gone to great lengths to promote Portus and the value of principal-protected hedge fund investments. In addition to his book and video, Mr. Manor also created the Portus Academy, which held educational seminars for financial advisers and investors. The company is famous for its aggressive marketing and its targeting of small retail investors, one of the reasons it has become one of the fastest growing hedge in Canada.

Mr. Manor has declined comment. But yesterday in the letter for customers, he boasted that the company still has strong support. "We have received many supportive calls over the last week from dealers and advisers. We appreciate this strong vote of confidence."

The Portus Core Purpose

Our core purpose is to protect your life savings, the foundation of your lifestyle and aspirations.

Founded in Canada, we are an alternative investment specialist built on the principles of integrity, capital preservation and results.

We honour these principles by thoroughly analyzing the world's elite alternative asset managers and constructing absolute return investment funds that strive for consistent, positive returns while carefully managing risk.

Boaz Manor,

Managing Director,

Portus Alternative Asset

Management

© 2007 The Globe and Mail. All rights reserved.

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