U.S. woman who helped create index for hedge funds dies

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

BOSTON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Lee Hennessee-Gradante, a pioneer who helped create an index to track the secretive hedge fund industry, died on Saturday.

Hennessee-Gradante, 64, was found dead in her apartment in West Palm Beach, Florida, West Palm Beach Police Department spokeswoman Lori Colombino. Results of an autopsy are not yet known, but family spokesman Chase Scott said she likely suffered a stroke.

Nearly 30 years ago, Hennessee-Gradante helped create the Hennessee Hedge Fund Index, widely followed because there was only a limited amount of public information about which hedge fund strategies were making or losing money.

Investor return figures, for example, were even more closely guarded back then than they are today.

Together with her husband, Charles Gradante, she ran New York-based Hennessee Group which sold hedge fund research and portfolio management services to institutional and high net worth clients. At its peak, the group oversaw $1.6 billion in assets.

The couple sold the hedge fund advisory business to Terrapin Asset Management in 2013. At the time the pair said they planned to spend more time on their charitable foundation and philanthropic interests.

Gradante survives her.

Relishing her role as a women in the male-dominated hedge fund industry, Hennessee-Gradante frequently attended industry conferences, mentored women eager to work in finance and co-founded industry association "100 Women in Hedge Funds."

She also groomed relationships with prominent managers and cherished her North Carolina roots, sometimes combining the two. She often spoke of about her friendships with North Carolinian fund managers Julian Robertson and Louis Bacon.

And in 2000 she served as New York finance chair for Elizabeth Dole, another North Carolina native, when Dole briefly ran for the Republican nomination in the U.S. presidential election.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)