By Katya Wachtel
NEW YORK, March 13 (Reuters) - Robert Lacoursiere, the Paulson & Co partner who oversaw the hedge fund's investments in the banking sector, quit last week according to people familiar with the departure.
Lacoursiere is leaving to launch his own hedge fund, those people said. His exit was reported earlier by Bloomberg News.
The 49-year-old Lacoursiere joined Paulson in March 2008 after almost four years with Banc of America Securities. He held positions at Capital One, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns earlier in his career.
Another member of the Paulson financials team, analyst Zach Gast, left the hedge fund in January, according to people with knowledge of the move. He was rehired in March to join the London office.
A spokesman for Paulson declined to comment on the departures.
Gast joined Paulson in April 2009, after about four years as an analyst at RiskMetrics Group. He spoke alongside some of Paulson's top deputies, including Andrew Hoine and Lacoursiere, at a panel discussion on financials at an investor conference for Paulson's Advantage fund in Las Vegas last year.
Financials were a sore point for Paulson in 2011. Its Advantage Plus fund lost 52 percent, while hedge funds on average, lost about 5 percent.
The Paulson Advantage fund, the unlevered version of the Advantage Plus Fund and the firm's largest portfolio, lost 36 percent last year. The Standard and Poor's 500 stock index ended 2011 roughly unchanged.
Those funds were hurt in part by big, unsuccessful bets on companies including Bank of America and Hartford Financial Services.
After gaining 5 percent in the first month of the year, Paulson's Advantage Plus Fund dropped 1.5 percent in February, while the Advantage Fund dipped 0.8 percent. Hedge funds, on average, rose 2.14 percent in February, according to Hedge Fund Research.