The year 2020 will go down in the record books as one of the worst in global history. Nearly 2 million people died from coronavirus , tens of millions more lost their jobs and countless others faced unprecedented disruption to their daily lives.
However, it was a very profitable year for the elite few financial executives betting on the health of the global economy. The world’s top 15 hedge fund managers collectively made $23.2bn (£16.9bn) last year. That is the equivalent of more than six Marks & Spencers or more than the gross domestic product of Iceland or Zambia (population: 18 million).
The best performing hedge fund manager, Chase Coleman III, the founder of Tiger Global Management (TGM), made $3bn in performance management fees and gains on his personal investment in the fund, according to a Bloomberg analysis of regulatory filings.
Coleman’s personal pay last year was more than the GDP of dozens of countries including Gambia, Bhutan and Eritrea, according to the International Monetary Fund. It is thought to be the biggest single year’s pay for anyone since another hedge fund manager, John Paulson, made $5bn in 2010 betting on the recovery of the economy after the financial crisis.
Coleman’s $3bn adds to the $4.5bn fortune he had already amassed, according to estimates by Forbes magazine, which had him ranked as the 458th richest person in the world.
Coleman and his TGM fund made a lot of money from investing heavily in tech stocks including PayPal, Google-owner Alphabet, the fitness bike company Peloton and the remote-working winners Zoom and Slack. He was also an early investor in Facebook, which made his fund nearly $1bn.
Coleman, 45, has been described by New York Magazine as having “the unique distinction of being both old and new money rich”. He is a descendant of Peter Stuyvestant — the last Dutch governor of New York and the person who ordered the building of the wall that Wall Street is named after. The name on his birth certificate is Charles Payson Coleman III.
He got his start in hedge funds at 24 when Julian Robertson, the founder of Tiger Management, gave him $25m seed money to start Tiger Global. Coleman attracted Robertson’s attention as he was good friends with Robertson’s son Spencer, growing up in the wealthy Glen Head community on Long Island.
In 2005 Coleman, who is a major donor to the Republican party, married Stephanie Ercklentz, the daughter of banker and industrialist Enno Ercklentz. She featured in the 2003 documentary film Born Rich, in which she said she gave up working for a living because it required “too many hours”.
The couple, who have several homes, mostly live in a two-level whole floor apartment near Central Park in New York thought to be worth more than $100m. In 2018 they held a party during which the apartment was trashed ahead of a makeover, including spray painting the French plastered walls, according to New York Post gossip column Page Six.
All of the 15 hedge fund managers on the 2020 high pay list are men. The second-highest paid was Jim Simons, the founder of Renaissance Technologies, who made $2.6bn. Third was Israel Englander of Millennium Management.
Also on the list is Bill Ackman, the founder and chief executive of Pershing Square Capital Management. Ackman, who according to the list made $1.3bn, made billions for his fund by betting that stock markets would collapse early on in the pandemic.
Luke Hilyard, the executive director of the High Pay Centre thinktank, said: “The research shows the extraordinary riches accruing to a tiny number of individuals for speculative financial activities of dubious value to wider society.
p class=”css-38z03z”>“It ought to be completely clear that this is a really terrible way for wealth to be distributed, in the midst of a global pandemic with families losing jobs and homes, businesses going under and public services under immense strain.”