Hedge fund manager 'retires' to start vineyard

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Creating: Former hedge fund manager Mark Driver is turning this land in East Sussex into a vineyard.

Everyone has idle fantasies about doing something completely different with their lives: Mark Driver is one dreamer who followed through.

Mr. Driver is in the early stages of creating a vineyard — The Rathfinny Wine Estate — on 600 acres of farmland on the South Downs near Alfriston in East Sussex, England.

Gone are the days of making long/short stock bets. Mr. Driver was a founding partner of Horseman Capital Management Ltd., London, until the end of 2009 when he and co-founder John Horseman, handed over day-to-day management of $6 billion in multistrategy hedge funds. Mr. Driver was 45 when he “retired.”

Today, Mr. Driver is completing a two-year course in viticulture at Brighton University. Next spring, vineyard staff will prepare the farm's well-drained, chalky soil — part of the same geologic feature that makes France's Champagne region perfect for growing grapes — for the planting of vines in 2012. Rathfinny's first vintages of sparkling wines will be ready in 2017, Mr. Driver said.

The long period before the first Rathfinny wine sales is similar to Mr. Driver's investment approach. “At Horseman, we played out very long-term themes. We were very patient investors,” Mr. Driver said.

Follow Mr. Driver's progress as a winemaker at Rathfinny's website.