< previous page page_14 next page >

Page 14

Week. (Business Week wrote an April 1996 cover piece on him called "The Fall of the Wizard of Wall Street." It focused on his results in 1994 and 1995. The following March, Robertson initiated a libel lawsuit in New York State courts against Business Week; McGraw-Hill, the publisher of the magazine; Gary Weiss, the author of the story; and Stephen Shepherd, the editor of Business Week, seeking to recover $1 billion in damages. The suit was dropped in December 1997 after the magazine ran an editor's note saying its predictions about Tiger's future performance were not borne out by subsequent results. No payment was made.) It was still obviously a point of contention.

At our breakfast, Robertson had agreed to speak via satellite broadcast to a conference to be held in Bermuda on October 12, 1998. As it turned out, on October 7, a few days before the scheduled speaking engagement, Robertson suffered a $2 billion loss on the surge of the Japanese yen against the U.S. dollar. Despite this setback and the gloomy atmosphere that prevailed in the markets, Robertson held to his promise and spoke to the conference via satellite. This was a man of integrity. I knew this speaking engagement was not the most important thing to him at the moment. Nevertheless, he had promised and he kept his word. Many other managers would have canceled without a second thought.

Most of the satellite broadcast was questions and answers. The audience—mostly managers and other industry professionals—had been shaken by the recent events of the Russian government bond default in August and Long-Term Capital Management's bailout in late September. Robertson did not provide too many details in his answers, but his answers were telling in the events that eventually unfolded. He also provided a sense of security and comfort to the industry.

He talked honestly and openly. "I feel very much like a batter who hasn't had a hit at the last 15 to 20 times at bat. . . . You worry about a slump even if you have confidence in yourself." He discussed heavy industry redemptions in general due to the somber atmosphere caused by recent events.1

He alluded to his lack of knowledge in technology—this was not an area in which he was strong. In response to a question on the proliferation of hedge fund information on the Internet, he said he was totally computer illiterate and couldn't get into the Internet if he tried. While he didn't provide details at that time, it was later released in press reports that the next year, 1999, he had short positions in telecommunica-

< previous page page_14 next page >