Who is Julian Robertson?

Julian Robertson is an American investor and former hedge fund manager best known for founding Tiger Management in 1980, which grew to be one of the most prominent hedge funds of its generation. Robertson closed the doors at Tiger in 2000 and has since been active in mentoring younger hedge fund managers, and philanthropic ventures focusing on higher education and medical research. During the 1980s and the early 90s, Robertson was often referred to as the “Father of Hedge Funds” and the “Wizard of Wall Street.”

Understanding Julian Robertson

Julian Robertson was born in Salisbury, North Carolina, in 1932 and graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1955. Following two years in the Navy, Robertson joined the New York office of Kidder, Peabody, & Co. as a retail broker in 1957. He climbed the firm’s ranks and eventually took the helm of its asset management division, known as Webster Securities. Robertson departed Kidder, Peabody, & Co. for a year-long sabbatical in New Zealand in 1979.

Key Takeaways

  • Julian Robertson was a high profile hedge fund manager in the 1980s and 90s.
  • Robertson employed a long-short strategy globally to profit from the performance gap between his picks for the best and worst stocks.
  • Robertson's firm, Tiger Management, closed in 2000 following a period of poor performance, but many of his proteges who worked for the fund have went on to become successful hedge fund managers in their own right.

While in New Zealand, Robertson hatched the idea for a new fund. He founded Tiger Management, one of the first hedge funds, upon his return to New York in 1980. Robertson used initial assets believed to be approximately $8 million. Tiger’s assets grew to $22 billion over the next two decades. The success of the fund is credited to Robertson’s ability to identify investment opportunities within the framework of a global macro trading strategy. Robertson frequently employed a long-short strategy, loading up on the best stocks he could find while shorting those he considered the worst.

In the late 1990s, Robertson was also known for his avoidance of tech investments during the buildup of internet stocks in the late 1990s. This avoidance was a double-edged sword for Tiger Management. The fund performed well during the eventual collapse of the tech bubble but suffered from a drain of capital as investors took their money to Silicon Valley. An additional stressor came in the form of a large investment in U.S. Airways, which did not go well for Robertson. U.S. Airways would file for bankruptcy protection in 2002 and again in 2004.

Julian Robertson After Tiger Management

Robertson liquidated the Tiger Management fund in 2000 following a period of poor performance. He wrote that Tiger’s success had been based on a rational approach to valuation and trading and that this strategy had proven less effective alongside the irrational growth of internet stocks. In the years that followed, Robertson focused his efforts on mentoring and investing with a slate of up-and-coming hedge fund managers known as the “Tiger Cubs.” Prominent members of this group include John Griffin of Blue Ridge Capital, Ole Andreas Halvorsen of Viking Global, Chase Coleman of Tiger Global Management, and Steve Mandel, formerly of Lone Pine Capital.

Robertson has been active in philanthropic activities since turning away from fund management. He founded scholarships at his alma mater and Duke University and committed to The Giving Pledge, a campaign launched by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Robertson has also been active in New Zealand, purchasing a handful of luxury lodges throughout the country.