February 25, 1945 |
Brooklyn, New York
Chairman, Caxton Alternative Management LP
|Net worth||$4.8 billion (March 2014)|
Bruce Stanley Kovner (born 1945 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American businessman. He is Chairman of Caxton Alternative Management LP, which he established in January 2012 to manage his investment, trading and business activities. From 1983 through 2011, Kovner was Founder and Chairman of Caxton Associates, LP, a diversified trading company. In March 2014, Kovner had an estimated net worth of around $4.8 billion.
Described as secretive even by family and friends, he is perhaps one of the least known New York City billionaires outside of professional circles.  He is a leading philanthropist and former chairman of American Enterprise Institute.
Early life and education
Kovner was born into a Russian Jewish family who immigrated to Brooklyn, New York, in the early 1900s from Tsarist Russia, fleeing persecution for their left-wing and atheist beliefs. Two of Kovner's father's cousins faced the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, pleading the Fifth Amendment. However, Bruce's father, Isidore Kovner, was more conservative than his kin, at one point even crossing a picket line to work.
Bruce Kovner grew up in the San Fernando Valley, where his father had moved the family in 1953. Early on, he was a high achiever, becoming a Merit Scholar. He was the student-body president of Van Nuys High School at 16, and an accomplished basketball player and pianist.
Kovner went to Harvard College starting in 1962, a time marred by the hanging suicide of his mother back in his family's Van Nuys home in 1965. Nonetheless, he was considered a good student and was well liked by his classmates. Avoiding the Vietnam draft by student deferment (when it was still available), Kovner stayed at Harvard, studying political economy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, notably under prominent conservative scholar Edward C. Banfield, who reportedly had great faith and admiration for the young Kovner.
Kovner did not finish his Ph.D., having suffered a severe case of writer's block and overreached in his choice of subject matter. Over the next few years, he engaged in a number of eclectic efforts; he worked on political campaigns, studied the harpsichord, was a writer, and a cab driver. It was during the latter occupation, not long after his marriage to now ex-wife Sarah Peter, that he discovered commodities trading.
Kovner's first trade was in 1977 for $3,000, borrowed against his MasterCard, in soybean futures contracts. Realizing growth to $40,000, he then watched the contract drop to $23,000 before selling. He later claimed that this first, nerve-racking trade taught him the importance of risk management.
In his eventual role as a trader under Michael Marcus at Commodities Corporation (now part of Goldman Sachs), he purportedly made millions and gained widespread respect as an objective and sober trader. This ultimately led to the establishment of Caxton Associates, in 1983, which at its peak managed over $14B in capital and has been closed to new investors since 1992. Kovner is a director of Synta Pharmaceuticals since 2002.
Kovner is not well known outside of professional circles. He has very rarely given interviews and is notoriously private. His Fifth Avenue mansion in New York City, the Willard D. Straight House, features a lead-lined room to protect against a chemical, biological, or dirty bomb attack.
A patron of the arts and a particular devotee of opera (he is on the board of the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center), Kovner is an avid collector of rare books and classical music manuscripts and has given millions to art projects and art institutions, notably the Juilliard School (of which he is chairman). Kovner donated $20 million to Juilliard in 2012 to endow the school's graduate program in historical performance. He is a primary funder of the expansion of Lincoln Center and the publisher of many works, including what some consider the finest modern illustrated bible. He founded and was chairman of the School Choice Scholarships Foundation, which awarded scholarships to financially disadvantaged youth in New York City.
Kovner has contributed extensively to conservative causes. In January of 2012 he donated around $500,000 to Restore our Future, a Super PAC supporting the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney. He is the former chairman of the board of trustees of the American Enterprise Institute. His close acquaintances have included former Vice President Dick Cheney, neoconservative figures Richard Perle and James Q. Wilson, as well as a wide range of government officials from all over the world – relationships which many consider contribute to Kovner's insight into commodities markets worldwide. Previously, he was a backer of the conservative Manhattan Institute and had invested in The New York Sun daily newspaper.
Kovner has been married twice:
- In 1973, at age 28, he married artist Sarah Peter, in a Jewish ceremony in Connecticut. They divorced in 1998.
- In 2007, he married Suzie Fairchild, a Roman Catholic, the daughter of Robert Fairchild,  the founder of Fairchild Publications, now a division of Condé Nast Publications.
- Juilliard Chairman Donates Trove of Rare Artifacts. NPR
- Bloomberg L.P. (2014) Bio for Bruce Kovner. Retrieved March 7, 2014 from Bloomberg Finance L.P.
- Weiss, Philip (24 July 2005). "George Soros’s Right-Wing Twin". New York Magazine. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
- Forbes: the World's Billionaires: Bruce Kovner, March 2013
- "Forbes 250 Richest Americans: #85 Bruce Kovner". Forbes.com. 2009.
- "Is Music the Key to Success?" by Joanne Lipman, The New York Times, October 12, 2013
- "Bruce Kovner", profile at Synta Pharmaceuticals
- "Caxton’s Bruce Kovner to Step Down After 28 Years With Law to Become CEO". Bloomberg. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
- "Yet Another Top Hedge Fund Manager Bruce Kovner Is Retiring". Business Insider. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
- Juilliard (About) – Leaders
- Oestreich, James (16 January 2012). "Juilliard School Announces $20 Million Gift for Early Music". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
- "Pro-Romney ‘Super PAC’ Spent $14 Million in January". The New York Times. 20 February 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
- Business Insider: "The Hottest Hedge Fund Wives On Wall Street" by Courtney Comstock and Isabelle Schafer May 9, 2011
- Women's Wear Daily: "Obituary: Robert Fairchild, 66" By Whitney Beckett February 18, 2009
- "The $11 Billion Man," Fortune magazine, September 29, 2003
- "Curated Alpha: Curated Interview With Bruce Kovner From Market Wizards"