Market Overview

Is the Sohn Investment Conference the 'American Idol' of Wall Street?

On May 8, thousands of financial professionals will gather at the Lincoln Center in New York City for the 2013 Sohn Investment Conference.

The event is (according to the Sohn Conference website), "…Dedicated to the treatment and cure of pediatric cancer and related childhood diseases. We are driven to help children suffering from devastating illness survive, thrive, and find happiness."

Created in honor of Ira W. Sohn, an investor who lost his battle with cancer roughly 20 years ago, the Sohn Conference Foundation "makes grants to support cutting edge medical research and to support programs that ensure children living with illness are given the highest quality of life and care."

The conference is famous for introducing a number of prominent investors, including David Einhorn. Barron's Brendan Conway recently compared it to a hit TV show, saying that the Sohn Investment Conference Contest (an investment ideas competition) is "American Idol for Wall Streeters, but with Bill Ackman instead of Randy Jackson."

Ackman is not the only one lined up to judge the competition. Joel Greenblatt, David Einhorn, Seth Klarman and Michael Price are also on board.

"We had several hundred submissions last year and the year before," Douglas Hirsch, the Managing Partner of Seneca Capital and co-chair of the Sohn Investment Conference, told Benzinga. "We're expecting more this year.

"On the day of the contest, the winner gets up and presents his or her idea and it's pretty exciting. What an incredible opportunity it has been for someone at this venue."

Hirsch estimates that 2,700 people will attend the 2013 Sohn Investment Conference, selling out Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall.

"We could come up with a great speaker list based on who's attending, not even who's speaking," he said.

By attending the event, investors will help support the Sohn Conference Foundation.

"Rockefeller University was in need for a million dollars to buy a microscope that they felt would enable them to do transformative research," said Hirsch. "After a series of meetings, we donated that microscope, which they have named Ira, in honor of Ira Sohn."

While the Foundation benefits are incredible, many money managers attend because it has become a "must-attend event."

"It's not merely enough to hear that a name was or wasn't mentioned," said Hirsch. "You want to hear the support that goes with it. There's been some monstrous winners over the years."

Louis Bedigian is the Senior Tech Analyst and Features Writer of Benzinga. You can reach him at 248-636-1322 or louis@benzingapro.com. Follow him @LouisBedigianBZ

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