It's amazing to me to think back to the excitement that preceded the IPO of Fortress Investment Group (NYSE:FIG). The anticipation of a "true" alternative asset manager coming to market was such that after the offering was priced at $18.50 per share, it was bid up to $35 before retail investors could get their hands on shares. Although it didn't inspire quite the same frenzy, some of the momentum from that offering carried over to the IPO of Blackstone (NYSE:BX), another alternative asset manager.

Since those offerings, other alternative asset managers have made public market overtures, including private equity giant KKR and hedge fund manager Och-Ziff, both of which have filed initial offering documents. But we're living in a different world now, even compared with just a few months ago. Private equity is facing increased uncertainty as well as higher interest rates and lower availability of debt. The hedge fund industry as a whole has been broadsided by erratic markets that have caused fund blowups at Bear Stearns (NYSE:BSC) and Sowood Capital, as well as major losses for even the likes of Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS).Getting extremely negative on the entire industry may be misguided, though. Unlike with some industries that are truly cyclical, you just can't lump all hedge funds into the same sinking bucket.

Underscoring the fact that not all hedge funds are curling up in a ball in the corner was the excitement on Tuesday over the potential for Renaissance Technologies, arguably one of the most successful hedge funds ever, to sell an ownership stake. The Financial Times reported that the fund was kicking around the idea of selling a stake through the private offering system called Opus 5 run by The Bank of New York Mellon, Citigroup (NYSE:C), Lehman Brothers (NYSE:LEH), and Merrill Lynch (NYSE:MER).

Reports of the sale have been uncorroborated, and Renaissance representatives have even been quoted as directly refuting the idea. But should they decide to sell a piece of the firm after all, you can bet that it wouldn't be difficult for them to find buyers interested in owning a piece of a 25-year-old hedge fund that reportedly has earned annualized returns of about 35%.

The bottom line is that despite what some doomsday coverage might suggest, hedge funds -- and private equity, for that matter -- aren't going anywhere. As long as there are hotshots like Renaissance founder James Simons out there, there will be people willing to pay outsized fees for access to outsized returns.

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Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy has never once been caught with its pants down. Of course, it doesn't actually wear pants.