Investor Ricky Sandler pushes for herd immunity approach to coronavirus after his hedge fund suffered losses

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Ricky Sandler, founder and chief executive officer of Eminence Capital LP, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Tuesday, May 1, 2018.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A hedge fund chief who had a bullish view of the stock market when social distancing restrictions began is now supporting the idea of herd immunity to coronavirus as states begin to reopen. 

Ricky Sandler, founder and CEO of Eminence Capital, recently told friends in a letter obtained by CNBC that he believes there should be a widespread attempt at protecting the vulnerable while large portions of the population develop herd immunity. 

Sandler, who suffered losses on his stock market positions nearly two months ago, writes: “With proper coordination, I can envision Artists hosting virus relief concerts where young and healthy people go and hopefully get the virus and then the antibodies which allow them to donate blood to be used as a treatment or a prophylactic.” 

He went on to say that this proposal, which he calls “Plan B,” also would include “citizens that are comfortable go back to life as we know it with no restrictions. Individuals protect themselves and their families if they are worried. Businesses and institutions protect their employees including the vulnerable the best way possible.”

Sandler, who has no medical experience, notes that he supports the proposal of herd immunity over the “Plan A” of long-term social distancing. “In my mind, the choice is obvious and clearly Plan B for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it is the path least likely to lead to civil unrest,” he says in the letter. 

Sandler later made it an open letter and published it on a website titled “I Choose Herd Immunity.” 

There have been more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases in the United States and at least 91,000 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines for reopening schools, mass transit and nonessential businesses that had previously been shutdown due to Covid-19. An article written by faculty at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health said getting the virus in order to hopefully achieve some form of immunity, might not be such a good idea, especially without a vaccine.

“For less severe diseases, this approach might be reasonable. But the situation for SARS-CoV-2 is very different: COVID-19 carries a much higher risk of severe disease and even death,” the authors wrote in April. 

Sandler’s letter comes after a rough March for his fund and a practical joke involving Memorial Day.  

As the Dow Jones Industrial Average started to tank in March, Sandler went on CNBC to give his bullish prediction for the stock market. 

“I think the people are totally missing what is happening here. Every new headline, every new hysteria is making people more nervous, and it’s actually very, very positive,” he said on “Halftime Report” at the time. “It’s all helping to contain the problem.” 

Reuters reported in April that Sandler’s market position led to the fund losing money. His firm saw positive gains for most of the month of April, according to a person familiar with the matter, but it’s unclear how much of a bounce back it has seen since then.  

Earlier this month, Sandler and his girlfriend sent out a prank invitation to a house party dubbed a “Memorial Day Bash,” according to a flyer obtained by CNBC. The invitation said it was supposed to take place Saturday, May 23, at his home in upscale Sag Harbor, New York. This came as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was continuing to put restrictions on large gatherings. “We’ve never been rule followers,” the invitation says. 

A person familiar with the event said that it was meant as a joke and that those who were invited were informed of the attempt at humor immediately after the memo was sent out to friends. 

Another person with knowledge of the outreach told CNBC that as of earlier this week some of those invited were still RSVP’ing, apparently not aware that it was a joke. 

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect a correct characterization of the hedge fund’s losses. 

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