David Tepper Leaves Big Shoes to Fill

An article by Bloomberg columnist Nir Kaissar highlights the recent exit from the hedge fund industry of star manager David Tepper, who last month announced that he plans to return money to outside investors and focus his attention on managing his own fortunes and running his Carolina Panthers football team.

Noting that Tepper is the latest in a long line of managers who have chosen different paths, Kaissar writes, “It’s hard to blame them. They don’t need the money. The trades are increasingly crowded. And with the rise of low-cost options, the fees that hedge fund managers demand seem more exorbitant than ever to investors.”

That said, however, Kaissar points out that elite managers are the “lifeblood of the hedge fund industry,” and Tepper’s track record is “otherworldly,” adding that his firm Appaloosa has returned 25% a year since its 1993 inception (data from Bloomberg News):

Among Tepper’s unique traits, Kaissar points out his foresight to prioritize performance over fees, returning money to investors in eight of the last nine years in order to maintain a size that would maximize results. Tepper also had a “knack for knowing when to take big risks,” the article reports, adding that Appaloosa was seven times more volatile than the S&P 500 and twice as volatile as Berkshire Hathaway stock. “But more of that volatility can be attributed to Appaloosa’s ups than its downs,” Kaissar writes, “owing to Tepper’s penchant for making deeply contrarian bets.”

Tepper’s retirement, while making room for a new generation of star managers, leaves a big void to fill. “The question,” Kaissar concludes, “is whether hedge fund investors still have the will to find them.”