Whitney Tilson is one of several veteran hedge fund managers, including Eton Park Capital Management’s Eric Mindich, Hutchin Hill Capital’s Neil Chriss, Eclectica Asset Management’s Hugh Hendry, and Blue Ridge Capital’s John Griffin, who called it quits in 2017. Small hedge funds come and go with great regularity, but the inability of the industry’s stars to profit as the stock market soared to new heights has raised questions about the viability of the model. Tilson was a much smaller player than the others—at his peak he only managed $200 million—but his experiences are a window into the headwinds that have faced these former masters of the universe.
What distinguishes Tilson from many of his peers is that his willingness to talk about the long, excruciating road down. “It’s hard, after seven years at sucking at something, to wake up and tap dance to work. So, I found myself getting distracted. I wasn’t physically getting out of shape; it was the opposite. I was going and climbing mountains. This one part of my life, I was miserable at; I was having no success. It’s hard to have to self discipline to focus all your attention like a laser, and all your spare time on a particular part of your life, in which you’re getting so much negative reinforcement.”
Here’s my profile of Tilson’s rise, fall and his new venture teaching others what he learned from his mistakes.