Steve and Alexandra Cohen
Steve and Alexandra Cohen
Amount donated: $351m by the end of 2014
Philanthropic Causes: The arts, education, children’s health, Lyme disease and veterans
Region of philanthropic focus: US, particularly Connecticut, New York and the tri-state area
Ranking: Ranked 30th on Forbes’ America’s 50 Top Givers List
Net Worth: Forbes put Steve Cohen’s net worth at more than £12bn in 2016
Source of wealth: Hedge funds
Spouses Steven “Steve” and Alexandra “Alex” Cohen have donated hundreds of millions of dollars through their non-profit organization over the last 15 years. The couple launched the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation in 2001, with a particular focus on gifts to organizations in the fields of veterans, the arts, education and children’s healthcare.
Each of these areas of philanthropic support is related to their own personal experiences and interests. Between them they have seven children, and are passionate supporters of improving the lives of the young (in particular K-12 youth) through education and health. Steve’s son is a veteran, having served in the US Marine Corps. The couple’s fathers also served their country: Steve’s in WWII, and Alex’s in the Korean War. Steve’s love of the arts has seen the billionaire amass (since 2000) one of America’s greatest art collections, housed at their mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut. The New Yorkers also concentrate on giving to the tri-state area.
The Cohens gave out $51m in 2014, which placed them 30th on Forbes’ America’s 50 Top Givers List. Their total lifetime giving up to this point was $351m. This represents 3% of net worth, which was calculated by Forbes to be $12.7bn in 2016. Steve gave the second biggest charitable gift by an individual of 2016 so far, pledging $275m to start a new veterans charity. Other notable contributions include: nearly $100m to the Robin Hood Foundation; a $50m gift to create the Alexandra & Steven Cohen Pediatric Emergency Department at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital; $50m to North
Shore-LIJ’s pediatric hospital, which was renamed the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York; over $50m to more than 20 Lyme disease projects; $20m to create the Cohen Children’s Institute at Stamford Hospital, Connecticut; and $17m to establish The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center at NYU Langone Medical Center.
As President of their Foundation, Alex states: “We hope to enrich people’s lives and to inspire others to make a difference”. She was raised in Washington Heights, New York and inspired by her mother to give back to the community from a young age. From high school Alex worked in soup kitchens and nursing homes. She met Steve through a dating service and they wed in 1992.
Steve made his fortune through his huge talent for hedge funds. Making $1.55bn in 2015, he was ranked third on Forbes’ Highest-Earning Hedge Fund Managers & Traders List. Born in 1956 into a middle-class family of eight children, Steve grew up in Long Island, New York. He learnt how to play poker in high school, which taught him to take risks. “It’s the same with trading,” he explained to Vanity Fair (a rare interview for the notoriously press-shy billionaire): “I think about the risk. I think about the trade. I don’t think about the money.”
He studied economics at the University of Pennsylvania, but preferred to stand outside a Merrill Lynch office, watching the New York Stock Exchange screens. He was skilled at guessing which way the numbers went, and invested his poker winnings at brokerage offices. He developed his own style, and on graduation in 1978 took a job in option arbitrage at Gruntal & Co. on Wall Street. Playing stocks on the side, he did very well very quickly. By his mid-20s he was earning $5-10m per year and was considered a “wunderkind”. He became a proprietary trader with his own division in 1985. He soon divorced his first wife, Patricia. In 2009, she alleged her ex-husband was involved in insider trading in 1985, but the case was dismissed in 2011.
In 1992 Steve founded SAC Capital with $25m, and it became one of the most successful hedge funds ever. He was forced by federal prosecutors to shut down SAC when the organization pleaded guilty to insider-trading charges in 2013. Steve opened family office Point72 Asset Management and manages his own fortune through the company, having agreed to a two-year ban on