Julian Robertson’s Philanthropic Tiger Cubs: How Five Hedge Fund Founders Give

Robertson mentored numerous Wall Street philanthropists including Tiger Global founder Chase Coleman. Photo: T. Schneider/shutterstock

The late Julian Robertson ran one of the largest hedge funds of his generation, Tiger Management. He has been credited — or condemned, depending on your perspective — for “bringing hedge funds into the mainstream.” But in addition to his role as a pioneer of the hedge fund, Robertson mentored a new generation of star investors, known as “Tiger Cubs.”

Robertson and the Tiger Cubs is an oft-cited story on Wall Street, and makes up a big part of the famed investor’s legacy. It’s also a philanthropic story, since many of Robertson’s acolytes followed in the footsteps of a man we once named one of the “most generous philanthropists in finance.”

Over the decades, Robertson not only helped make philanthropists out of his disciples, but arguably did a lot — for good or ill — to shape Wall Street philanthropy as we know it today. A partner at the Bridgespan Group told the Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2016 that the Tiger Foundation, the philanthropy associated most closely with Robertson’s hedge fund, along with the billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones’ Robin Hood Foundation, were akin to “philanthropy finishing schools” for a generation of young investors. 

More than a dozen Tiger Cubs have started personal foundations over the past few decades. Most get few points for their size and overall giving — many are small operations whose assets look like a rounding error next to the piles of money amassed by their sometimes billionaire founders. That said, there are a handful with more than $200 million in assets, and therefore some measure of power and influence. 

In an attempt to take stock of this aspect of Robertson’s philanthropic legacy, I’ve taken a look at five of the largest such institutions: when they got started, how much they give and what they support. Next to their names, I list each foundation’s current total assets.

Whether you consider such giving an exercise of open-hearted generosity or tax-deductible capitalist might, this list is unquestionably a portrait of power. With one truckload of cash after another, these foundations have helped cement the national preeminence of a group of New York-based nonprofits, particularly many favored by Robertson. These include educational and children’s groups (Teach for America, Harlem Children’s Zone), medical facilities (NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Hospital for Special Surgery) and green groups (Environmental Defense Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society).

Like many major donors, the Tiger Cubs have also enriched the mostly private universities they attended, even while often sending donations to organizations supporting underserved students. Each of the foundations named here have sent some of their biggest checks to the alma maters of their founding couples.

Like the Robertson Foundation — the late investor’s biggest foundation — this is a relatively low-profile bunch. Only the two largest outfits have websites or paid employees (at least listed in their IRS filings). Whether the foundations are staffed or not, the founding couples are almost always the ones calling the shots, occasionally with one or two friends or colleagues, based on those filings. Similarly, all listed asset figures are as of 2021 or earlier.

None of these Tiger Cubs have yet come close to equalling Robertson’s philanthropic record, though that’s no surprise given his more than two-decade head start. And it appears there were limits to his influence, or at least to the Tiger Cubs’ desire (to date) to go to his lengths. Unlike Robertson, who was a founding signatory of the Giving Pledge, not one of them has joined the effort.

Robertson famously closed his shop after a down year. With many Tiger Cubs getting “clobbered” this year by falling tech stocks and other market downturns, perhaps we’ll see some of them turn their attention to philanthropic pursuits.

Zoom Foundation — $883 Million

Stephen Mandel was a managing director at Tiger Management when he departed to start his own fund in 1997. He no longer manages investments, but remains a managing director at the firm. The 66-year-old has an estimated $3.6 billion fortune.

He and his wife, Susan, started their philanthropy, the Zoom Foundation, just a few years after Mandel struck out on his own. The Greenwich, Connecticut-based foundation has a basic website but names almost none of its grantees, instead sending nearly every dollar to a donor-advised fund. But the Mandels also have an extensive record of giving in their own names and sit on the boards of several major nonprofits, including Robertson favorites like the Environmental Defense Fund and Teach for America. The foundation awarded $68 million in 2020. 

Hollyhock Foundation Inc. — $743 Million

Robert Karr left Tiger to hang his own shingle in 1996, but unlike some others on this list, he has long since stopped managing other people’s money. Karr had about $5 billion under management when he converted his hedge fund to a family office in 2014. His philanthropy, however, started much earlier — Karr and his wife, Suzanne, started their New York, New York-based foundation in 2002. 

Unlike most foundations on this list, the Hollyhock Foundation has a website, albeit a limited one. Like most foundations on this list, its biggest grants go to traditional “eds and meds” recipients. In 2019, those included Uncommon Schools ($2.5 million), Penn Graduate School of Education ($1.4 million) and Karr’s alma mater, Stanford University ($1.2 million). That said, there’s a big unknown on the foundation’s grant list: Nearly two-thirds of the $27.8 million Hollyhock awarded in 2019 went to a donor-advised fund. 

Ainslie Foundation — $350 Million

Lee S. Ainslie III departed Tiger nearly three decades ago to launch his own operation, Maverick Capital, which reportedly has $12.5 billion under management. He’s only recently come to institutional philanthropy, starting his foundation in 2016. But he and his wife, Elizabeth, already have a measure of philanthropic prominence. 

Now in his late fifties, Ainslie sits on the board of the Robin Hood Foundation, where he’s served since 2013, as well as on the board of the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Each got million-dollar grants from the couple in 2019. Elizabeth Ainslie is a trustee of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and formerly served on the board of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Both institutions recently received six-figure gifts from the couple, and such recipients are typical of its portfolio. The foundation, based in Dallas, Texas, lacks a website, but has donated to some high-profile efforts, including COVID relief.

Halvorsen Family Foundation — $247 Million

Ole Andreas Halvorsen was a key figure at Tiger Management prior to 1999, when he left to start his own fund. It’s been a profitable move; he now has an estimated fortune of roughly $6.6 billion. Halvorsen started the Halvorsen Family Foundation a few years later, which he runs with his wife, Diane. 

Based in Greenwich, Connecticut, the foundation has historically sent the bulk of its grantmaking dollars to schools the Halvorsens attended. It gave out $7.1 million in grants in 2019, with the largest awards going to the couple’s alma mater Williams College ($3.7 million); its related museum, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute ($2.1 million); and Stanford University’s business school ($1 million), which Ole Andreas Halvorsen attended. In 2020, the foundation made a $5 million gift to the Hospital for Special Surgery to create a center bearing the family name.

Chase and Stephanie Coleman Foundation — $201 Million

Chase Coleman III, a descendant of the last Dutch governor of Manhattan, was only three years into his time at Tiger Management when Robertson closed up shop. Robertson’s parting gift to the then-25-year-old investor? $25 million to start his own hedge fund. It’s worked out quite well. According to Forbes, Coleman, now 47, has amassed an $8.5 billion fortune. The Chase and Stephanie Coleman Foundation is modest by comparison, both in terms of its assets and its public profile, despite launching back in 2006. 

The couple made $10 million in grants in 2019 through the foundation, which has been mostly a traditional eds and meds funder. For example, major grants that year went to New York-area medical institutions such as the Hospital for Special Surgery ($1.2 million) and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital ($1.4 million) and an elite girls’ academy, the Chapin School ($1.4 million), which Stephanie Coleman attended. Teach for America and Harlem Children’s Zone have also received regular six-figure awards. To the couple’s credit, their New York-based foundation has had an average payout rate of over 10% in recent years. 

Bonus: Tiger Foundation — $93 million

Unlike the rest on this list, this foundation was started by Julian Robertson himself. Yet to this day, it serves as a conduit for donations from his firm’s alumni and other young managers. For instance, the Chase and Amy Coleman Foundation sent its largest 2019 grant ($3 million) to the Tiger Foundation. Chase Coleman, along with several philanthropically active Tiger Cubs such as John Lykouretzos, served on the board as of 2019. Focused on New York City, the foundation made $11.8 million in grants in 2019 and has averaged an 18% payout rate in recent years.