Julian Robertson, founder of Tiger Management and mentor to a generation of investors called the “Tiger Cubs,” died August 23rd at his Manhattan home, reports an obituary in Bloomberg.
Robertson, who launched Tiger Management in 1980 with $8.8 million and grew it $22 billion over the next 18 years, had a personal fortune of $4 billion and a reputation in the same echelon as George Soros and Michael Steinhardt. He was known for managing his holdings aggressively, dumping solid companies in order to add in new ones, never betting more than 5% of capital on one investment, and remaining unwavering through volatility. He made a rare error on the yen in 1998 that drove many investors out of Tiger, and closed his funds down in 2000.
But his legacy was created by the many former employees of Tiger who then went on to found their own firms—some of them with seed money from Robertson. Dubbed the “Tiger Cubs,” they utilized Robertson’s approach of doing extensive research to pick companies they view as undervalued while betting against stocks they believe are destined to fail, with particular attention paid to the skill level of the company’s management, the article contends. Though many of the Cubs have gone on to great success, one was responsible for a well-known blowup: Bill Hwang, who founded Tiger Asia Management, which was found guilty of insider trading on Chinese bank stocks in 2012. Hwang then formed Archegos Capital Management to manage his own money, and in March 2021 that firm lost $20 billion in 2 days, delivering staggering losses to banks around the world. At the time, Robertson said “…it could probably happen to anyone. But I’m sorry it happened to Bill.”
Robertson was born in North Carolina on June 25, 1932 and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning his bachelor’s degree in business before joining the U.S. Navy. In 1957 he started at Kidder Peabody & Co, climbing the ladder until 1974, when he became CEO of that company’s asset-management arm, Webster Management Corp. According to Bloomberg, in 1978, he and his wife packed it all up and went to New Zealand for Robertson to write a novel—a career change that only lasted 6 months. He returned to New York and founded Tiger Management with Thorpe McKenzie, a colleague from Kidder Peabody.
After he closed his hedge fund, Robertson used Tiger Management to seed new managers, exchanging capital for a share of their profits. He contributed over $2 billion to charity throughout his lifetime, supporting low-income families in New York through the Tiger Foundation, which has granted more than $250 million to schools, employee training programs, and childhood education programs. He is survived by his three sons with his wife Josephine Tucker, who predeceased him in 2010: Julian III, who manages the family’s property in New Zealand, where Robertson spent much of his time, Alexander, who took over as president of the Tiger seeding firm, and Spencer, who founded Pave charter schools.
John Griffin, long-time employee of Tiger and friend of Robertson, told Bloomberg, “Julian taught me not only about investing, but about life. His passion was contagious and his integrity unquestioned.”