Net worth: $20 billion
At 77, Icahn enjoyed another strong run in 2012, beating the U.S. stock market and most hedge fund managers. The investment pool he manages for himself and his employees returned more than 20% in 2012, thanks to bets on Hain Celestial Group and CVR Energy. Icahn, who was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Queens, returned his hedge fund’s outside money in 2011. Separately, shares of his Icahn Enterprises, which invests in rail cars, retail, gaming, and energy, surged at the start of 2013. He started 2013 by locking horns with hedge fund trader Bill Ackman over Herbalife, the nutritional supplement seller Herbalife. Icahn took a roughly 13% position in the company after taking on Ackman in a verbal slugfest on CNBC. He returned the client money he managed in his hedge fund in 2011. The activist investor announced in 2012 that he is giving $200 million to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and has given $40 million to support his six charter schools operating in the Bronx.
Net worth: $19.2 billion
The hedge fund legend is chairman of Soros Fund Management, the $24 billion firm that manages his personal fortune as well as the money belonging to his foundations. He is not involved in day-to-day operations, but Soros remains involved. His firm returned the relatively little client money it managed in 2011. The firm’s performance trailed the U.S. stock market in 2012, but was firmly in positive territory, thanks partly to a big bet against the yen. Born in Budapest, Soros survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary and went on to study at the London School of Economics before launching storied hedge fund firm Quantum Fund Management in 1969. Outspoken on world economic policies and an unapologetic proponent of European integration, Soros has recently declared that the euro is “here to stay.” Since 1979 Soros has given away $8.5 billion to human rights, education and public health groups; $6 billion has gone to international causes and estimated $400 million to fight poverty.
Net worth: $12.5 billion
The king of the rich hedge fund industry, Dalio lords over the world’s biggest hedge fund firm, Bridgewater Associates, with about $140 billion in assets. He founded Bridgewater in his Manhattan apartment in 1975. Now at age 63, he is doing all he can to ensure its survival, ceding more responsibility and selling ownership stakes in his firm to his employees and clients. Also on the drawing board: A new $750 million headquarters Dalio is working to build in Stamford, Ct., to accommodate more than 2,000 employees, nearly double the number of people currently working at the firm. His foundation gives money to a wide array of organizations including the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, the Dalio Talent Identification Fund, the World Community of Christian Meditation and Teach for America.
Net worth: $11.2 billion
Hedge fund titan John Paulson, who pulled off the greatest trade ever six years ago betting against subprime mortgage securities, is now having to sooth jittery investors after his Paulson Advantage ended 2012 down more than 14%, its second straight year in the red. In December, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney recommended that its advisors pull client money from the fund. However, Paulson’s Enhanced fund returned nearly 20% net of fees last year, while the firm’s Credit Opportunities fund netted 8.4%. Assets under management at Paulson & Co. stand at $18 billion, down from $36 billion in early 2011. An NYU alum and trustee, he donated $20 million to the school in 2009; he gave $5 million to Southampton Hospital, near his summer home, and is donating $15 million to a new maternity hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where his father was born. Paulson made headlines in October 2012 when he pledged $100 million to the Central Park Conservancy.
Steven A. Cohen
Net worth: $9.3 billion
The federal government is breathing down his neck with an insider-trading investigation that has spooked some of his investors, but that has not stopped Cohen from making money in financial markets. In 2012, his Stamford, Ct., SAC Capital Advisors, which manages $14 billion, posted gross returns in the 25% range. That was not enough for Cohen to deliver a U.S. stock market beating performance for his investors after he charged them his customary steep fees, but a net return of 13% was still better than the vast majority of hedge fund managers. A minority owner of the New York Mets and a prolific art collector, Cohen is also on the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The father of a Marine, Cohen serves as Co-Chairman of the Veterans Advisory Board at the Robin Hood Foundation. The NYU Langone Medical Center recently announced that Cohen’s foundation was making a $17 million grant to establish a new veterans’ mental health research center.
Net worth: $7 billion
Tepper continues to make a good case that he is one of the greatest hedge fund investors ever. While most hedge funds underperformed the U.S. stock market in 2012, Tepper trounced it. His flagship hedge fund posted net returns of about 30% by betting on stocks and other securities at key times. His $15 billion hedge fund firm, Appaloosa Management, has generated average annualized returns of approximately 30% net since inception in 1993. He returned some cash to his investors at the end of 2012. Tepper continues to focus his philanthropic efforts on education– from the elementary school level to university–and feeding the hungry in his home state of New Jersey. Tepper has donated significantly to food banks and food pantries across N.J. over the past five years and funded numerous educational causes and institutions, like Teach for America. He gave $55 million to Carnegie Mellon’s business school in 2004; it was renamed the Tepper School of Business. Tepper is a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.