Julian Robertson Jr
Julian Robertson Jr
Amount donated: Hundreds of millions of dollars, but has pledged to donate at least half his wealth to charitable causes
Philanthropic causes: Education, the environment, medical research, religion and spirituality
Region of philanthropic focus: National (USA), New Zealand, and latterly Africa
Ranking: Previously listed as one of ‘Top 50 American Givers,’ having donated a recorded $354m from 2004 – 2008 – the figure has grown
Net worth: $3.6 billion (Forbes)
Source of wealth: Hedge Funds – self-made
Retired hedge fund manager Julian Hart Robertson Jr. came to both philanthropy and business independence in what could be described as ‘late in the day,’ yet he has made an indelible mark in both arenas – his philanthropy has been described as “transformative” in his American homeland and his net worth is estimated at $3.6 billion by Forbes.
Born in 1932 in Salisbury, North Carolina, Robertson has distinguished himself in New Zealand also, where he has business and leisure interests – in the 2010 New Year Honours, he was made an Honorary Knight Companion of the Order of Merit for services to business and philanthropy.
A former naval officer, Robertson launched his hedge fund business, Tiger Management Corporation, in his late forties. The year was 1980. He had ‘cut his teeth’ in the financial world for over two decades with New York’s Kidder, Peabody and Co, first as a stockbroker, then as head of the firm’s asset management subsidiary.
Independence brought incredible wealth – the fortunes of Tiger management soared in the 18 years from its inception. Initial investments of $8m sky-rocketed to over $22bn, making the firm one of the world’s largest funds. Two years later, in 2000, Tiger’s fortunes plummeted, attributed in part to ‘poor stock-picking,’ and resultant investor-withdrawals. Robertson closed its external funds. Tenacious, savvy, and it would seem somewhat of a father-figure to his staff, the Tiger story was not wholly over.
Like the mythological phoenix, the firm was in a sense reborn via a network of ‘Tiger Cubs’ – individual funds managed by former Tiger employees. Robertson is credited with being the instigator, and is reputed to be ‘a minority partner’ in each.
His paternal influence extended to his philanthropy. During Tiger Management’s boom years of 1989 to 1997, Robertson established three foundations, the first of which was Tiger Foundation, considered by Robertson as his “most successful venture.” A goal of the Foundation was to
“encourage active, informed philanthropy among the investment staff at the firm.” The mission was successful – many of Robertson’s ‘young charges’ have become philanthropists in their own right, and the Foundation has provided more than $150m in regional grants. Its ‘remit’ includes education, employment, criminal justice and alleviating the plight of needy families in New York.
Meanwhile, The Robertson Foundation was launched in 2006 in partnership with the billionaire’s late wife Josie (who passed away in 2010 from breast cancer, 15 days short of Robertson’s 78th birthday on 25th June). The causes embraced include religion and spirituality, medical science and the environment. In 2010, the New York Stem Cell Foundation received $27m from The Robertson Foundation, with a portion of the monies allocated to supporting post-doctoral scientists. Robertson provided an insight into his model-of-giving, telling the Wall Street Journal: “We’re investing in people who have the capability of making great change,” and the publication in turn noted that he (Robertson) prefers “giving money to people rather than toward building projects or capital campaigns.”
Earlier this month (April 2016), The Robertson Foundation donated $25m to Success Academy Charter Schools, which predominately enrols children from low-income families in ‘disadvantaged neighbourhoods.’ Academy founder CEO Eva Moskowitz stated: “Julian Robertson’s philanthropy has been transformative to education and reform, and we are deeply grateful to him and his family for this generous gift”
Robertson’s third foundation, The Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation, was founded in homage to his parents, and focuses on community-based projects in his birthplace.
With the march of time, the range of Robertson’s philanthropy has broadened – he is a benefactor of projects that aid impoverished peoples in developing lands, mainly Africa – and deepened – environmental issues have become more prevalent, a concern that has been accompanied by multi-million dollar donations. Robertson has supported two presidential campaigns – Mitt Romney in 2012 ($1.25m) and Jeb Bush in 2015 ($1m) on account of their eco-mandates.
As we have seen, Robertson made his fortune from Tiger Management, and then bolstered it from off-shoots of the company. Additional business interests include overseas markets as well as the vineyards of New Zealand.
His business and philanthropic interests have long been entwined, with Robertson serving as a role-model for his fellow investees in both domains. He has proven that it is never too late to take a leap of faith or help your fellow-man.
Robertson himself has acknowledged his latter-day espousal of philanthropy, which has continued to grow apace with his retirement, quipping: “One very fortunate thing is that I did not get nearly as enthusiastic about philanthropy early on as I am now; if I had, there would be very little to give away.” The jocular statement was made, in a letter in 2010, when Robertson signed up The Giving Pledge – whose signatories have agreed to donate at least half their wealth to charitable causes.