An iconic figure in the financial sector, Julian H. Robertson Jr. is one of the pioneers of the present-day hedge fund industry. In 1980, he launched one of the first hedge funds, Tiger Management, with an initial investment of $8.8 million from family and friends. Known as one of the best stock pickers in town, Robertson turned his initial capital into over $22 billion, with an annual compound rate of return of 31.7%, making Tiger Management one of the most successful hedge funds to ever exist. The fund remained active in trading until the year 2000, when Robertson made the choice to close it. From there, Robertson turned his attention to other areas, which included creating golf courses, owning wineries, and pursuing philanthropic interests. To date, Robertson has given away $1.3 billion of his wealth to charitable causes including medical research, charter schools, and environmental protection. He is also a member of numerous civic boards, including iMentor, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Children’s Scholarship Fund, and the Cancer Research Institute. In January 2010, Robertson was named New Zealand’s first honorary knight. As of 2015, the self-made billionaire was ranked #159 on the Forbes 400 list of the richest people in the United States.
Born and raised in North Carolina, Robertson’s choice of UNC Chapel Hill as his college was a no-brainer. By his own admission, academics weren’t his strong point. He made a lot of friends at UNC and was admitted to Zeta Psi fraternity, but he was never inclined to do much studying. College friends such as Billy Armfield (’56) recalled that though Robertson was clearly a very bright guy in his undergraduate days, few predicted he’d go on to be as successful as he was. Still, in 1955, Robertson met all of the requirements to graduate with a business administration degree.
Although the Wall Street tycoon now devotes more time to golf and wine tastings, he still remains deeply attached to his UNC roots. A generous and stalwart supporter of educational opportunities, Robertson gave back to his alma mater in 2000 in a big way. That year, he donated $24 million to create The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program, which awards a merit scholarship providing four-year full tuition, housing, and travel funding for 36 Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students each year. The overall purpose of the program is to encourage collaboration between Duke and the University of North Carolina, while also promoting the development of young leaders. It’s far from the only gift by Robertson. Previously he has served on the UNC Board of Visitors and the GAA Board of Directors, in addition to endowing an MBA fellowship for the business school and serving as executive in residence there. In 2005, University leaders awarded the 1955 graduate with a Distinguished Service Medal Citation, acknowledging the outstanding service Robertson has given to the UNC community over the years.