The pain kept coming for hedge funds in 2019: if they weren’t being killed off, they were bleeding cash or wringing out dismal returns.

The industry is now on track to record more closures than launches for a fifth straight year, a blow to a market that once minted millionaires at a heady pace. More than 4,000 funds have been liquidated in the past five years, according to data compiled by Hedge Fund Research Inc.

Billionaires Louis Bacon and Jeffrey Vinik were among veterans who rocked the more than US$3 trillion industry this year by handing back capital to clients. Many found themselves out of step with the longest running bull market in history, while others faced investor revolt or couldn’t raise enough to stay in the game. Some had just been doing it for too long, and wanted out.

“Everything has to come to an end, sometime,” Stephen Roberts wrote in a letter to clients this month to announce his decision to close the Horseman European Select fund. “I have found myself looking at a different path ahead.”

Investors are pulling money at an accelerated pace as high fees and mediocre returns send them searching for yield elsewhere. They’ve yanked $81.5 billion this year through November, more than twice the amount for the whole of 2018, according to eVestment data.

As for returns, there’s little to cheer there. While the S&P 500 delivered a 28 per cent gain this year through November, the Bloomberg Equity Hedge Fund Index only managed 10 per cent.

The following hedge funds closed or turned into family offices this year:

--With assistance from Suzy Waite, Katherine Burton, Katia Porzecanski, Hema Parmar, Saijel Kishan, Melissa Karsh, Bei Hu and David Ramli.