Investors in his hedge funds didn’t want to listen to him when, in 1999, Julian Robertson questioned the reasonableness of the prices being paid for shares in nascent Internet companies. Months after he was booed for 15 minutes at the annual shareholder meeting at the Plaza Hotel in New York in October 1999, he began the process of closing up shop. “It doesn’t make sense to put our investors at risk in a market that I frankly don’t understand,” he it is reported wrote them in March 2000. “After much consideration, I have decided to return all capital to our investors, effectively pulling the curtain on the Tiger funds.”
In April 2000, the technology market began to crash.
His good moment only cemented the legend of Robertson, who just died at age 90 of heart complications, according to his spokesman, but who, until age 67, ran Tiger Management, one of the biggest, highest-profile and best. .. operating funds in the 70-year-old hedge fund industry.
You don’t have to look far to appreciate its lasting impact. While Tiger Management reportedly boasted average annual returns of more than 30% over the 20 years it operated, the broad swath of investment managers who cut their teeth as part of Robertson’s 200-strong team became almost as legendary. Among the many hedge funds run by people who worked with Robertson — they’re known as “Tiger Cubs” — are Tiger Global, Lone Pine, Coatue Management, Viking Global, D1 Capital and Pantera Capital, and that’s just taking samples.
“In a strange way, Julian Robertson touches trillions of dollars in assets under management because there are so many people who have worked directly for him [or] indirectly,” Daniel Strachman, author of Julian Robertson: Tiger in the Land of Bulls and Bearstold the Financial Times last year.
Not surprisingly, Robertson’s mentees speak highly of him as an investor as well as a philanthropist. In addition to Robertson’s own family foundationand Tiger Foundationa nonprofit that claims to have awarded more than $250 million in grants to organizations working to break the cycle of poverty in New York City, Robertson in 2017 signed Placing a pledgewhich requires participants to give away at least half of their wealth.
One of those protégés is Coatue founder Philippe Lafont, who spent three years working for Robertson before striking out on his own in 1999 with a reported 45 million dollars that, unlike Robertson, he immediately started getting into tech stocks. (Lafont lost money in the crisis the following year, but got through it.)
Coatue — a crossover fund named after a beach off the coast of Nantucket — there is became pressed again this year from declines in both public and private tech stocks. Still, Coatue grew its assets under management to nearly $60 billion by the end of last year, and Laffont appears to credit Robertson with some of that success.
“Julian was a legendary investor and generous mentor,” Lafont said in a statement sent to TechCrunch this morning. “He did so much good in the world and so often when no one was looking. We all feel lonelier without him here. He leaves a beautiful legacy that so many of us will continue to strive to live up to. I consider myself lucky to have had his friendship and mentorship in my life.”
Another of Robertson’s famous mentees is Chase Coleman, who worked as an investment analyst at Tiger Management for nearly four years before the hedge fund folded. Coleman, who launched Tiger Global Management the following year, in 2001, also credits Robertson for much of the career he has enjoyed.
In a statement sent to TechCrunch earlier today, Coleman wrote: “Julian was a pioneer and giant in our industry, respected as much for his ability as an investor as for the integrity, honesty, loyalty and competitiveness he demonstrated as a leader. He found time to be a true mentor, always leading by example and pushing us all to become the best versions of ourselves. For that, and for his friendship, I am eternally grateful. He will be sorely missed, but his impact on me and countless others, as well as the many communities he touched through his philanthropic efforts, will endure.”
Like Coatue, Tiger Global is a crossover fund that increasingly invests in private technology companies as well as publicly traded ones. Like Coatue, he also had a comparative difficult 2022, thanks to the breathtaking zigs and zags of the market. (To be fair, the same is true of many outfits, including Viking Global, whose founder, Andreas Halvorsen, once traded shares at Tiger Management and, like Lafont, struck out on his own with Viking in 1999. His flagship fund is track for his own the worst yearBloomberg reported last month.)
Indeed, it’s easy to wonder what Robertson—whose success has been all about buying undervalued stocks with good earnings prospects—thinks about these small, late-stage private tech companies’ aggressive moves, especially given that some were paying every price last year and skyrocketing ratings in the process.
If Robertson ever questioned their differing approaches, he never said so publicly. Even when Archegos Capital Management—the family office of another protégé, Bill Huang—suddenly collapsed in spectacular fashion last year (Hwang was accused of massive scam by the SEC in April), Robertson came to Huang’s defense in a rare interview with the FT, I say on the way out last summer: “Bill is a good friend and I know Bill well. I think he made a mistake and I expect him to come out of it and move on.”