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Julian Robertson, founder of Tiger Management, dies at 90

Julian H. Robertson, the founder of Tiger Management LLC and mentor for a generation of hedge fund managers known as “Tiger Cubs,” has died at the age of 90.

Bloomberg reported his death on Tuesday, citing his longtime spokesman, Fraser Seitel.

Robertson built Tiger Management into one of the most successful hedge fund firms, starting with $8 million in assets and growing to more than $21 billion. One expert called him one of the “true founding fathers of the modern hedge fund industry."

Along the way, he mentored a generation of some of the biggest hedge fund stars of our time, including Robert Citrone and Chase Coleman. Notably, Bill Hwang was also a "Tiger Cub" before being criminally charged with securities fraud in April of this year in connection with the far-reaching collapse of his family office, Archegos Capital Management.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 20:  Julian Robertson speaks on stage at The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 20: Julian Robertson speaks on stage at The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation "A Magical Evening" on November 20, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)

‘A wonderful place to grow up’

Julian Hart Robertson, Jr. was born on June 25, 1932, in Salisbury, North Carolina, a small town located in the state’s Piedmont region.

“It was a wonderful place to grow up. I think everyone should be required to grow up in a small town,” Robertson said in his distinctly southern accent during a 2013 interview with OneWire.

He spent his high school years at boarding school at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia.

“That was the place that meant the most to me educationally. That and the U.S. Navy,” Robertson told OneWire.

He graduated from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1955. While in college, he was a member of the Zeta Psi fraternity.

After college, he served in the Navy for two years before beginning his career on Wall Street as a stockbroker for Kidder, Peabody & Co. By 1974, Robertson was serving as CEO of Webster Management Corporation, the firm’s investment advisory subsidiary.

In 1978, Robertson departed Kidder, Peabody and traveled to New Zealand where he planned to write a novel. He would later become an owner of luxury golf resorts and a vineyard in New Zealand.

“I think I realized what we were doing was the wrong way of investing. We were doing the conventional stuff of 15% bonds, 85% stocks, or something of that nature. I think I realized pretty quickly that what we should be doing — because I ran my account this way — was running a hedge fund,” Robertson told OneWire.

A gift for picking talent

In 1980, at the age of 48, Robertson launched Tiger Management, a long-short equity hedge fund that also moved into global equities, commodities, currencies, and bonds.

“He was a charmer in a southern way, a networker in a New York way; and far from being coldly in control, his mood could swing alarmingly. Tall, confident, and athletic of build, he was a guy’s guy, a jock’s jock, and he hired in his own image,” Sebastian Mallaby wrote in his best-selling book “More Money Than God.”

Aside from stellar investment success, Robertson had a gift for picking the best talent. During his career, Robertson seeded dozens of so-called “Tiger Cubs,” protégé analysts and portfolio managers who would also build some of the most successful hedge fund firms, including Philippe Laffont of Coatue, Chase Coleman of Tiger Global, Lee Ainslie of Maverick, John Griffin of Blue Ridge Capital, Steve Mandel of Lone Pine, and many more.

Philippe Laffont, founder of Coatue Management, attends the annual Allen and Co. Sun Valley media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., July 9, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Philippe Laffont, founder of Coatue Management, attends the annual Allen and Co. Sun Valley media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., July 9, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“The most important things with hedge fund managers [is] that they are smart and that they are honest. Close behind that is probably competitiveness. We really like competitors. Someone who won’t lose, doesn’t lose,” he told OneWire.

In his 2008 book, “Julian Robertson: A Tiger in the Land of Bulls and Bears,” Daniel Strachman wrote of Robertson’s “competitive streak that runs deep in his veins, and he unleashes it not only when he is trading or investing but also in his everyday life, including when he is relaxing on the golf course.”

Robertson, whose roots were in value investing, saw his hedge fund’s performance decline in the late 1990s as internet and tech stocks ripped higher. A critic of high-flying tech stocks, Robertson closed his hedge fund firm and returned money to investors in 2000 right before the dot-com bubble burst.

He continued to operate Tiger Management as a family-office hedge fund, managing his personal fortune. Robertson’s wife of 38 years, Josephine Tucker Robertson, died in 2010 at the age of 67. Her obituary in The New York Times noted that she and her husband were leading supporters of the Central Park Conservancy and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Bloomberg noted that Robertson had three sons: Julian III, known as Jay; Alexander; and Spencer.

Julia La Roche is a former correspondent for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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