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The Alpha Masters: Unlocking the Genius of the World's Top Hedge Funds by Mohamed El-Erian, Myron Scholes, Maneet Ahuja

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Chapter 5

The Fearless First Mover

David Tepper

Appaloosa Management

We keep our cool when others don’t. The point is, markets adapt. People adapt. Don’t listen to all the crap out there.

—David Tepper, May 2010 Ira Sohn Investment Conference speech

David Tepper had had enough. It was late 1992, and the 35-year-old had just been passed over for the coveted role of partner at Goldman Sachs for the second time. Tepper had risen through the ranks as a junk bond trader, raking in millions of dollars for the venerated financial institution, year after year. He had worked so hard, and thought to himself, damn it, it just wasn’t fair. But at least this year’s snub wasn’t a mystery. Tepper knew the reason very well, which was why it was time to leave.

When he landed at Goldman in April 1985 after leaving his job as an analyst at Keystone Mutual Funds, he was 27 and thought he had hit the jackpot. Goldman was starting its new high yield group, and Tepper had signed on as a credit analyst for the team. From behind his gargantuan mahogany desk in his office in Short Hills, New Jersey, the now 54-year-old Tepper recalls how he soon realized he didn’t want to be an analyst, but wanted to be in the hot seat, trading. “I really wanted to learn about this trading business, and the guy running the desk at the time was not really a corporate guy,” says Tepper, who, at a stocky six feet tall with bright, baby blue eyes, looks more like a linebacker than a human calculator. “He wasn’t good at understanding ...

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