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The Boston Globe

Business

Red Sox owner John Henry shutting down investment firm

Says he has no intention of selling team

John Henry

John Tlumacki / Globe Staff

Red Sox owner John Henry’s investment firm has struggled in recent years.

Red Sox owner John Henry is shutting down his Florida investment firm after several years of decline, but Henry insists he has no intention of selling his stake in the Boston baseball franchise.

Founded in 1982, John W. Henry & Co. helped Henry build a fortune using complex statistical models to trade in commodities. The firm managed $2.5 billion in 2004, the year the Red Sox won the World Series. But assets under its watch declined dramatically in the financial crisis and have not come back.

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On Friday, Henry said the Boca Raton firm told clients in October that it planned to return the rest of their money -- which now amounts to less than $100 million -- by year’s end. It will continue to manage Henry’s personal account.

Henry, 63, in response to questions from the Globe Friday, said in an e-mail, “I haven’t run the company since 1989. We’ve always had a mathematical approach and a philosophy that hasn’t changed.”

But markets have changed since then, making it more difficult to exploit changes in commodity prices. “It is clear that economies are much more managed than they were,’’ Henry said.

He said that his firm’s decline has “caused a number of potential investors to call me” about whether he would sell the Red Sox, but he has rebuffed such a notion.

“My answer has been that I’m not interested in selling any portion of my ownership. While others within the partnership have sold all or portions of their stakes over the past 11 years, my percentage of ownership has increased,’’ Henry said. “I have no interest in reducing that. If anything I expect it to increase over time.”

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There was speculation in September that his firm’s demise might mean Henry would lack the resources to support the Red Sox and the Liverpool Football Club in England. Henry and at least one key partner say that is not true.

Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said in an interview Friday, “I know that John doesn’t have any intention to sell either the Fenway Sports Group, or any portion of his shares.”

The Wall Street Journal first reported on John W. Henry & Co.’s plans to close.

A college dropout who grew up on a farm in Arkansas, Henry developed an appreciation for the commodities markets at a young age. He built a successful firm on his concept of “managed futures,” trading profitably in both up and down markets.

The Globe reported in 2009 that assets at Henry’s firm had declined to $188 million and that the Brookline resident had fired more than a quarter of the staff. Eight employees were let go, leaving 20 at the time.

Recent performance is down by double digits in two of the funds John W. Henry & Co. oversees -- one by 32 percent over the past year, according to the firm’s web site. Over three years, the funds are down 6 percent annually, although longer term the funds look better: producing 8.9 percent average annual returns over five years, vs. 1 percent for the stocks of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

Beth Healy can be reached at bhealy@globe.com.

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