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Julian H. Robertson Jr. is an American former hedge fund manager. He was born in Salisbury, North Carolina in 1932. Robertson graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in business administration in 1955. After a stint in the Navy, he joined Kidder, Peabody & Co. in New York in 1957 and, over a twenty year career, became one of the firm's top producing stockbrokers. Robertson founded the investment firm Tiger Management Corp., one of the earliest hedge funds in 1980 with $8 million start-up capital that became over $22 billion in the late 1990s. Quick success was also followed by a fast downward spiral of investor withdrawals that ended with the fund closing in 2000. Now retired, Robertson invests directly in other hedge funds, most run by former employees of Robertson's defunct hedge fund company. He is active in philanthropy and supporting the resolution of environmental issues.
Subsequently, he became head of Kidder Peabody's money management subsidiary, Webster Management Corporation. In 1993, his compensation and share of Tiger's gain exceeded $300 million. His 2003 estimated net worth was over $400 million, and in March 2011 it was estimated by Forbes at $2.3 billion, a slight increase from the $2.2 billion estimated the previous year. Robertson said in 2008 that he shorted subprime securities and made money through credit default swaps. The following year, according to Forbes, Robertson's return on his $200-million personal trading account was 150 percent.
Year after year of brilliant returns turned a reported $8 million investment in 1980 into $7.2 billion in 1996. During the later part of this period, Robertson was the reigning titan of the world's hedge funds. At his peak, no one could best him for sheer stock-picking acumen. Investors, at a required minimum initial investment of $5 million, flocked into his six hedge funds. In the late 1990s, Robertson agonized over the tech-stock craze and, while avoiding what he considered to be "irrational" investing, the TMG funds missed out on any participation on the big gains of the sector. The gradual demise of Tiger from 1998 to 2000, when all its funds were closed, was reflected in the plunge in assets under management from a peak of $22 billion in assets in 1998 to a closing value of $6 billion. Poor stock picking and large, misplaced bets on risky market trades are usually cited as the cause of Robertson's downfall. However, it is felt by many objective observers that high-level executive defections from TMG's management, as well as Robertson's autocratic managerial style and notorious temper, eventually took their toll on the firm's performance. Tiger's largest equity holding at that time was U.S. Airways, whose troubles dragged down the value of his holdings. After closing his fund in 2000, Robertson kept his hand in the hedge fund business by supporting and financing upcoming hedge fund managers, in return for a stake in their fund management companies. Apart from those, many of the analysts and managers Robertson employed and mentored at Tiger Management went out on their own and are now running some of the best-known hedge fund firms, called "Tiger Cubs".
Robertson has been quoted as saying "our mandate is to find the 200 best companies in the world and invest in them, and find the 200 worst companies in the world and go short on them. If the 200 best don't do better than the 200 worst, you should probably be in another business. He is very private on his investments. In TMG, Robertson would get input from his analysts and make all the investment decisions. It is said though that Robertson was a macro trader, and often rode worldwide trends. His investment style, about which there is very little written, consisted of a "smart idea, grounded on exhaustive research, followed by a big bet." Not exactly a practical framework that would work for the general investing public.
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