For more than 40 years, Paul E. Singer has helped cement New York City’s reputation as a global financial capital as the founder of Elliott Management, a hedge fund with $41 billion in assets whose offices overlook Central Park.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Singer, a billionaire who is one of the wealthiest people in the United States, revealed that he was moving his firm’s headquarters from Midtown Manhattan to West Palm Beach, Fla.
The decision to leave New York was prompted by the pandemic and the uncertainty over the future of Manhattan offices, a person familiar with the move said.
Mr. Singer himself, however, will remain in the Northeast, and Elliott will keep offices and some employees in New York, said the person, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the firm’s plans.
The departure by Elliott Management, which was first reported by Bloomberg News, follows a similar migration in recent years by other aging billionaire investors, including Carl C. Icahn, who left New York City for Florida, home to sunny weather, beaches and generous tax benefits, especially for the wealthy.
President Trump also officially abandoned New York late last year for Palm Beach, Fla., and made his resort there, the Mar-a-Lago Club, his official residence after complaining that he had been “treated very badly” by elected leaders in the city and state.
Mr. Singer’s move could bode ill for the city as it tries to recover from a financial crisis that has left more than a half million New Yorkers without jobs. New York City’s personal income tax revenue, which is heavily reliant on wealthy New Yorkers, is expected to drop by $2 billion this fiscal year.
Elliott Management only started to explore a move to Florida during the pandemic as its roughly 500 employees started to work remotely, including from other states, the person said. City boosters have voiced concern that the pandemic has created permanent changes in the way people work that will hinder New York City’s economy, which relies heavily on office work and commuters.
“The main driver was to provide flexibility to people who want to have more say in where they live and work,” said the person familiar with the plans.
While its New York office will remain open, Elliott is also setting up a new office in Greenwich, Conn., the wealthy enclave northeast of the city. The new offices in Florida and Connecticut are expected to open before next July, the earliest date its employees could return to the office, the person said.
“It’s certainly not a positive signal,” said E.J. McMahon, an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank that Mr. Singer has chaired since 2008. Mr. McMahon described the city’s tax base as “enormous but also fragile.”
For wealthy taxpayers, moving to Florida can provide a significant windfall.
Unlike New York State, Florida has no individual income tax, estate tax or capital gains tax, which the state has promoted in a concerted effort to recruit financial firms from New York.
Still, Ben Friedland, a New York real estate broker who specializes in hedge funds and private equity firms, suggested that the recent moves may have more to do with the age of the companies’ leaders than anything intrinsic to New York City.
“Historically there is a certain segment of the population who, after living in the northeast for the majority of their lives, decide to move south, whether to Florida or elsewhere,” said Mr. Friedland, the vice-chairman of the New York office of CBRE, a commercial real estate brokerage. “So these moves might be correlated to life stage, as opposed to anything else.”
Mr. Trump’s 2017 tax cuts imposed a $10,000 limit on state and local tax payments that families can write off on their federal income taxes if they itemize deductions, which disproportionately affects wealthy residents of high-tax states like New York. So far, however, there is little evidence to suggest the elimination of that deduction has sent wealthy New Yorkers fleeing to lower-tax states.
Mr. Singer, 76, did not return an email seeking comment.
While Mr. Singer will not personally relocate to Florida, the firm’s co-chief executive, Jonathan Pollock, has moved there to work out of its new headquarters, the person said. Mr. Singer, who is worth an estimated $3.6 billion, is expected to spend most of his time in the Northeast, including at an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
For almost all of Elliott’s history, Mr. Singer, by himself at the top of the firm, has built it into one of Wall Street’s biggest hedge funds and one of its most vocal. Like other activist firms, Elliott often makes small investments in companies and, sometimes through public campaigns, tries to rally other investors and put pressure on companies to make changes.
Mr. Singer has also played an active role in New York City politics as chairman of the Manhattan Institute — the rare conservative, urbanist research institute based in New York City. (Mr. Singer has also raised millions for Republican candidates and supported Senator Marco Rubio of Florida before Mr. Trump won the party’s nomination in 2016.)
On Tuesday, Mr. Singer helped hand out the institute’s 20th Alexander Hamilton awards to the hedge fund manager Daniel S. Loeb, the Federalist Society president Eugene B. Meyer, and the society’s co-chairman, Leonard A. Leo.
Mr. Singer called the institute “a beacon of reason” in a “reeling” city.
The Manhattan Institute dates to the 1970s, when New York nearly had to declare bankruptcy, as companies left the city.
“But rather than abandon the city as a lost cause, the Manhattan Institute advanced ideas that helped bring it back to life,” said Reihan Salam, the institute’s president, on Tuesday night.
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