The 20th Annual Rich List, the Definitive Ranking of What Hedge Fund Managers Earned in 2020

The 2021 Rich List top five (Bloomberg photos)

The 2021 Rich List top five

(Bloomberg photos)

A bad year for humanity was a wonderful year for the hedge fund elite.

Other outfits impersonate — we’re looking at you, Bloomberg — but no one knows the world of hedge fund riches like Institutional Investor’s Stephen Taub.

For the 20th year in a row, Taub has called upon his unrivaled knowledge of the ownership, fee structures, and closely held return figures for the world’s largest hedge funds. He also has a knack for hearing things others don’t.

The output is the definitive list of what the titans of the trading floor earned during the pandemic year of 2020.

Will the $32 billion in earnings across the top 25 managers grate on those who watched tens of millions lose their jobs while global GDP cratered? Most certainly.

But when volatility increases and stock markets soar — regardless of their connection to the real economy — a select group of men (and yes, it is all men on II’s 2020 Rich List) stand to make bank. It may not be seemly, but it remains fact. And Steve Taub, alone among his peers, consistently gets it right.


— The Editors

Israel (Izzy) Englander
Millennium Management

Flagship Fund Return: +26%
II Coverage: Don’t worry, Englander’s investors did well too — to the tune of $10.2 billion in 2020, bringing the firm’s lifetime return for investors to $36 billion. As such, this isn’t the hedge fund manager’s first rodeo: Englander has been on the Rich List in 19 of 20 years, including last year’s tie for third place.

James Simons
Renaissance Technologies

Flagship Fund Return: +76%
II Coverage: But what about the customers’ yachts? Although the mighty Medallion fund — largely open only to employees — did just fine, funds open to outsiders tanked in 2020. Perhaps not entirely unrelated, at least one academic believes that there’s something about Medallion that “stretches . . . explanation to the limit.”

Chase Coleman
Tiger Global Management

Flagship Fund Return: +48%
II Coverage: This might be why Bloomberg got it wrong: According to London’s LCH Investments, Coleman made the most money for his investors of any hedge fund in 2020, at $10.4 billion. How’d he — and other Tiger Cubs on a tear in 2020 — do it? Institutional Investor told the inside story in July.

Kenneth Griffin

Flagship Fund Return: +24%
II Coverage: You know it’s a wild year when earning $1.8 billion is not even remotely close to the most interesting thing about you. His separate Citadel Securities business, as anyone with a Robinhood account now knows, was a central player in the GameStop tumult of the past few months. And Griffin made clear his view on taxes when he reportedly said in October, “When taxes are at 39 percent, you’re not going to sell your winners.”

5 (Tied)
Steve Cohen
Point72 Asset Management

Flagship Fund Return: +16%
II Coverage: He’s managed to navigate the world of Wall Street — and government scrutiny — with relative ease, but the New York Mets owner was no match for the Twitter bros that caused him to abandon the social media platform in late January following his and Ken Griffin’s bailout of Melvin Capital.

5 (Tied)
David Tepper
Appaloosa Management

Flagship Fund Return: +13%
II Coverage: Tepper said in March that he wouldn’t go “balls to the walls” in the market until he saw a government stimulus package and “ventilators rolling off the factory floor.” Meanwhile, Appaloosa had already started its transition into a family office, with only 15 key investors expected to remain after the hedge fund returned capital to most of its clients in early 2020.

Philippe Laffont
Coatue Management

Flagship Fund Return: +65%
II Coverage: It was a good year to raise a new fund: Tiger Cub Laffont’s Coatue had one of its best years yet in 2020, delivering more than five times its flagship fund’s annualized return of 11 to 12 percent. This outperformance helped elevate Laffont to the top echelon of this year’s Rich List, as his earnings skyrocketed from $190 million in 2019.

8 (Tied)
O. Andreas Halvorsen
Viking Global Investors

Flagship Fund Return: +27%
II Coverage: Viking staved off the losses suffered by many other hedge funds in the first quarter and finished the year with strong gains in each of its three main funds. For the second straight year, hybrid fund Viking Global Opportunities was Tiger Cub Halvorsen’s top performer, with a 51.6 percent gain following at least three successful IPOs.

8 (Tied)
Scott Shleifer
Tiger Global Management

Flagship Fund Return: +65% (for the long-only fund, which Shleifer manages)
II Coverage: The Tiger Global partner runs the firm’s long-only fund and private equity business, which he co-founded with Chase Coleman in 2003. Driving the unit’s VC windfall: multiple unicorn IPOs. (Shleifer’s long-only fund had a good year, too.)

Bill Ackman
Pershing Square Capital Management

Flagship Fund Return: +70%
II Coverage: What hasn’t already been said about Ackman’s billion-dollar year? In addition to a perfectly timed short bet — which netted Pershing Square $2.6 billion at the start of the pandemic — Ackman made headlines in July when his blank-check company debuted as the largest SPAC of all time. By the end of this record year, London-traded Pershing Square Holdings had won a spot on the U.K.’s blue-chip FTSE 100 index.

For the complete 2021 Rich List, click here.