1. George Soros
2013 Earnings: $4 billion
The legend continues. In 2013, George Soros had a pretty good year, with Soros Fund Management delivering returns north of 22%. That was not good enough to beat the U.S. stock market, but it still made Soros a lot of money. Soros is not involved in the day-to-day operations of Soros Fund Management, the $29 billion family office that manages Soros’ fortune and money he has given away to his foundations. The firm is overseen by Scott Bessent, Soros Fund Management’s chief investment officer, but Soros remains involved and the firm’s big short bet on the yen at the start of 2013 was vintage Soros. He continues to be a market moving force and his short of the yen after Japanese policy makers accelerated monetary easing was widely watched. The famous philanthropist was also involved in major hedge fund battleground stocks last year. Betting against fellow hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman’s “pyramid scheme” hypothesis, Soros sided with Carl Icahn in going long the nutritional supplements company Herbalife, becoming one of the company’s largest shareholders. He trimmed the position near the end of the year. Born in Budapest, Soros survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary and went on to study at the London School of Economics before launching his hedge fund in 1969.
2. David Tepper
2013 Earnings: $3.5 billion
Tepper has set a new standard for hedge fund managers. His track record has long been phenomenal, but since the financial crisis his returns have reached a whole new level. In 2013, the 56-year-old founder of Appaloosa Management outperformed the U.S. stock market and the vast majority of hedge fund managers, with his biggest fund posting net returns of more than 42%. Over the last five years, Tepper’s main hedge fund has generated annualized net returns of nearly 40%—and gross returns of some 50%. In what has almost become an annual tradition, Tepper gave back some cash to his investors at the end of the year. In 2013, Tepper’s Appaloosa celebrated its 20th anniversary by pledging $20 million to various charities. Tepper also gave $67 million to Carnegie Mellon University last year—adding to the $55 million he previously gave the university—and continued to support other causes like basic needs and education.
3. Steve Cohen
2013 Earnings: $2.3 billion
In 2013, Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors hedge fund firm pleaded guilty to criminal insider trading charges and agreed to pay $1.8 billion in fines and penalties to the federal government. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan worked on what turned out to be two more successful prosecutions of former SAC Capital employees and Cohen is transforming his Stamford, Ct., hedge fund firm into a family office, returning billions of dollars to outside investors. But through it all, Cohen, 58, continued to do what he does best—make profitable trades and earn lots of money. SAC Capital knocked out net returns of about 19% in 2013. That was not as good as what the U.S. stock market returned, but it beat most other hedge fund managers.
4. John Paulson
2013 Earnings: $1.9 billion
The biggest comeback ever? After three very tough years, Paulson, 58, came roaring back in 2013. His $2.7 billion Recovery Fund posted net returns of 63%, his Paulson Enhanced funds returned 33% and the Advantage funds generated net returns north of 26%. About 80% of the $20 billion in assets that Paulson’s Paulson & Co., hedge fund firm oversees are now above their high watermark, meaning the firm is charging rich performance fees again. The only trouble spot in 2013 was gold. The 28% plunge of the yellow metal in 2013 not only hurt the returns of his relatively small Gold Fund, in which he has a large stake, it also dented the returns of the gold-denominated holdings he personally keeps in his other hedge funds.
5. Carl Icahn
2013 Earnings: $1.7 billion
Carl Icahn was everywhere in 2013. He battled with Michael Dell, helped push Aubrey McClendon out of Chesapeake Energy, made a killer trade on Netflix, fought with William Ackman over Herbalife, and loudly lobbied for Apple to repurchase more of its stock. In the end, Icahn’s investment fund returned 31% in 2013, which is pretty impressive given that its portfolio was largely hedged.