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It Pays (in Billions) to Be a Top Hedge Fund Manager

Top CEOs make millions, but top hedge fund managers make billions, apparently. NPR lays out a quick comparison of the top five earners for each, using data from The Wall Street Journal and trade publication Absolute Return+Alpha ($):

CEOs:

  • Ray Irani, Occidental Petroleum: $52 million
  • Robert Iger, Disney: $21 million
  • Samuel Palmisano, IBM: $20 million
  • William Weldon, Johnson & Johnson: $20 million
  • Jay Fishman, Travelers: $20 million

Hedge fund managers:

  • David Tepper, Appaloosa Management: $4 billion
  • George Soros, Soros Fund Management: $3.3 billion
  • James Simons, Renaissance Technologies: $2.5 billion
  • John Paulson, Paulson & Company: $2.3 billion
  • Steve Cohen, SAC Capital Advisors: $1.3 billion

And while we're talking hedge funds, here's some helpful context from The New York Times:

Hedge funds — the elite, lightly regulated investment vehicles open to a restricted range of investors — enjoyed a winning streak during the buyout boom that preceded the financial crisis in 2008. Then the bottom fell out of the industry, handing even top hedge funds double-digit percentage losses. In turn, the earnings of the top 25 fund managers in the 2008 survey tumbled 50 percent.

At the time, some market experts questioned whether the industry could continue to charge hefty fees — a manager typically receives a substantial portion of the fund’s annual appreciation — for such uneven performance. After all, hedge funds were supposed to protect investors against market volatility, not subject them to it.

Traditionally, industry standard is for hedge fund managers to receive 2 percent of the value of total assets managed and 20 percent of asset gains above pre-determined level. So while the Times piece points out that big gains were limited to top hedge funds, even the industry's "losers" -- managers whose funds didn't post gains -- were likely able to take home millions based on a flat fee of 1 or 2 percent of total assets. And that's still a lot more than the typical recession-time American can say.

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