Billion Dollar Salary

Fresh off of listening to When Genius Failed and Liar’s Poker, those stories of quick and great fortunes from the 1980’s and 1990’s now seem like pocket change when compared to the hedge fund managers of today. Compensations have been dipping into the billion dollar range for the past few years but the latest round of wealth has never been so astonishing.

To put this into perspective, the top hedge fund manger last year earned 61,157 times more money than the average American family ($3.7 billion versus $60,500). He averaged $422,374 per hour, every hour for 365 consecutive days (more than $7,000 per minute).

Take a look, I have always been intrigued by these “masters of the universe” compensation packages: 2006: Hedge Funds – Richest of the Rich

Wall Street Winners Get Billion-Dollar Paydays
By JENNY ANDERSON, Published: April 16, 2008

Hedge fund managers, those masters of a secretive, sometimes volatile financial universe, are making money on a scale that once seemed unimaginable, even in Wall Street’s rarefied realms.

The richest hedge fund managers keep getting richer — fast. To make it into the top 25 of Alpha’s list, the industry standard for hedge fund pay, a manager needed to earn at least $360 million last year, more than 18 times the amount in 2002. The median American family, by contrast, earned $60,500 last year.

Institutional Investor
By Stephen Taub, Posted April 15, 2008

  • Five of the managers on this year’s list each made more in 2007 than the $1.2 billion that JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to pay for the almost failed 85-year-old Bear Stearns Cos.
  • When we published our inaugural list, in 2002, Soros led the way with $700 million, a showing that this year would have put him at No. 9. Back then it took $30 million to crack the top 25; this year, $360 million.
  • The grand total earned by the top 25 in our 2003 ranking, almost $2.8 billion, was less than what any of the top three managers made this year and less than one fifth of what the top ten made altogether ($16.1 billion).
  • Though we doubled the size of our list from 25 to 50 this year, longtime New York–based star managers Mark Kingdon of Kingdon Capital Management and Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon Group both miss the cut, despite each making about $200 million. This year’s minimum: $210 million.

Bringing home more than a billion in 2007: Five hedge fund managers rake it in
By Peter Cohan, Posted April 18, 2008

  • John Paulson (Paulson & Co.) — 2007 earnings: $3.7 billion. Beginning in 2005, Paulson made huge bets on the decline in value of securities backed by subprime mortgages
  • George Soros (Soros Fund Management) — 2007 earnings: $2.9 billion. Soros’ $17 billion flagship Quantum Endowment fund racked up a 31.7% return in 2007, its best annual showing since the high-tech implosion at the start of this decade. Soros’ $2.9 billion payday comes almost entirely from his personal stake in the fund (which he no longer manages). I don’t know how he made that 31.7% return.
  • James Simons (Renaissance Technology) — 2007 earnings: $2.8 billion. Simons, a mathematician and former Defense Department code breaker, uses complex computer models to trade.
  • Philip Falcone (Harbinger Capital Partners) — 2007 earnings: $1.7 billion. Like Paulson, Falcone placed a winning bet against the mortgage market. He pulled in returns of 117% after fees in 2007.
  • Kenneth Griffin (Citadel Investment Corp.) — 2007 earnings: $1.5 billion. Griffin manages $20 billion and is a big information technology innovator that trades derivatives. equity securities. and listed options and buys distressed assets at a discount. For example, In late 2007 a Citadel-led group put $2.55 billion into struggling E*Trade Financial Corp., (NASDAQ: ETFC), the U.S.’s fourth-largest discount brokerage.


  1. Well, despite the insane amount, I don’t think the payments are out of line. For e.g. John Paulson made 3.4 Billion and his name has been thrown around by various senators coming up on CNBC as if it proves some kind of failure of capitalism and is unfair to the ‘Common Man’ who neither of them are.
    The truth is that it is perfectly reasonable. Paulson made 38 billion$ for his hedge fund. His cut – 3.4 Billion was 8.9%.

    Sales people in almost any industry, have a commission of 10-15% at the least (if not more) on the contracts they bring in. So by industry standards, Mr. Paulson had a very moderate cut.
    I think a lot of these politicians should lay off successful hedge fund managers and infact STOP bailing out failed hedge fund managers. Washington seems to love failed investors…

  2. I don’t care how much (in dollars) they earned.

    I’d like to see the same list, but the following statistics:

    * their pre-fee returns on assets under management (AUM) for 2007
    * their pre-fee returns on AUM, annualized over the last 3,5, and 10 years
    * their fee arrangements (2/20, etc)

    THAT would be interesting. Otherwise, it means as much to me as how much Britney or Lindsay earned last year, actually means less, because I don’t want to see pictures of Soros …

  3. Dexmus,
    I agree 110%! We should NOT be bailing out failed hedge funds and bankers that made half-a-million dollar mortgages to families earning $45k per year (and all similar acts). I have no problem with what they make. As for the cut he took home, 8.9% sounds low considering most firms/ managers take 1-2% off total equity and then up to 20% (or more) in profits.

    That would be a great list to see (apples to apples). I agree with the Soros comment – I don’t care for the guy from much of what he says outside of investing.

  4. yah let them keep their $, they’ve earned it…we need trading cards of these guys, i’d love a stevie cohen rookie

  5. Tim,
    Steve A is one of my favorites. He made a cool billion $$$ this year and has been on this list for a decade.

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