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[From The Archives] Julian Robertson: Riding The Tiger – 1990 Forbes Interview

Julian Robertson Jr. is a hedge fund pioneer and the founder of Tiger Management, the first of the "Tiger" hedge funds.

Robertson became known as the "Wizard of Wall Street" as Tiger Management achieved outsized returns throughout the 1980s and 1990s. It is reported that the compound rate of return to his investors was 32%. Year after year of brilliant returns turned a reported $8 million investment in 1980 into $7.2 billion in 1996. After a run of bad luck, the fund closed for good during 2000.

Julian Robertson

During January 1990, Julian Robertson sat down reporters from Forbes to discuss his investment style and outlook for Tiger Management. Here are the highlights of the interview titled, "Riding the tiger".

Julian Robertson: Riding the tiger

"Think of Julian Robertson's investment style as a study in controlled aggression -- one that might go for the bomb on first down, but never on fourth and short yardage." -- Forbes 1990

By early 1990, Robertson was running $540 million for 160 individual and institutional clients through the Tiger Fund and its spin-offs, Puma and Jaguar. And by 1989, Robertson had already racked up a record that eclipsed that hedge fund greats such as George Soros and Michael Steinhardt. From 1986 through 1989, Robertson's funds gained 86%, compared with Soros' return of 47% and Steinhardt's 57%.

Tiger's structure allowed Robertson to use a full range of exotic and leveraged instruments to make bets on the market. He says he was never much of an athlete, "But I love to compete--against the market, and against other people."

Julian Robertson was a contrarian; there's no other way of putting it. While others were staying away from risky assets in the early 1990's, he was making hefty bets on junk bonds, thrifts and German stocks:

"Robertson's funds were heavily invested in AMR, UAL and Squibb, all of which have generated far profits. Where has he deployed the proceeds? At a time when many of his colleagues are leaning to liquidity...