Bruce Kovner is a well-known American hedge fund manager and investor. He made it big in business when he developed his own Capital firm to manage his own trading, investment, and business ventures. Mr. Kovner has led an interesting life, and the man behind the business, philanthropy and the leadership of multiple trading companies has a story that is worth knowing. To help you become better acquainted with him, here are 20 things you didn’t know about Bruce Kovner.
1. He borrowed money to make his first trade
When Kovner made the decision to make his first trade in 1977, he had to use borrowed money. He used his MasterCard to purchase soybean futures contracts. His initial investment was $3,000, and as he watched his investment. It went to 40,000, then dropped to a value of $23,000, at which time he sold the stock. Later in his life, he shared that this was a “nerve-racking” time and he learned about risk management as the stock rose and dropped sharply in value.
2. He founded two companies
Mr. Kovner established Caxton Associates LP in 1983. The firm is a diversified trading company. The company remained under his leadership through 2011. He also founded a second firm called Cam Capital in 2012. This company was created so he could better manage his business and trading activities. He served as the Chairman of the company.
3. Kovner is a natural leader
Bruce Kovner attended the Van Nuys High School. At the age of 16, he served as the student body president for his class. By that time he was already an accomplished pianist as well as a basketball player for the school. He had multiple interests and talents as a teenager but it was obvious that he was a natural leader.
4. He’s had some rough times in his younger years
Bruce was born in New York City, in the Brooklyn area. His father Isadore Kovner was a semi-professional football player and his mother Sophie raised the children. The family moved from New York to a suburban part of Los Angeles, California in 1953. In 1962, young Bruce was preparing to go to college at Harvard. In just a few short years a family tragedy would forever change his life. His mother Sophie committed suicide in 1965 by hanging herself in the family home. This was an event that caused grief and heartache for him and his family, but he continued forward with his education.
5. Kovner has a solid education
Bruce was named as a Merit Scholar because of his high level of achievement in high school. He enrolled at Harvard in 1962 at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, studying political economy under Edward C. Banfield. He continued at the college building a solid foundation for his education through 1970. Although he did not complete his P.h.D. his education is solid after putting in nearly 8 years in the classroom.
6. He’s been married twice
Bruce Kovner married an artist by the name of Sarah Peter, in 1973 when he was 28 years old. The couple held the Jewish ceremony in Connecticut. The relationship didn’t work out, and it ended in divorce in 1998. He met the daughter of Robert Fairchild of the company Fairchild Fashion Media, which is a division of Conde Nast Publications. He and Suzie were married in 2007. Kovner has three children.
7. Kovner’s home is prepared for a national disaster
Bruce Kovner lives in a mansion on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. It’s known as the Willard D. Straight House. The home contains a lead-lined room to keep the occupants safe in the event of a biological or chemical weapons attack. While we’re not sure if Kovner is the architect of the room or if it was the idea of the former owner, he’s well prepared if someone decides to drop a bomb on New York City.
8. Kovner is a philanthropist
In 1996, Kovner established The Kovner Foundation. He did so to support a variety of causes that he deems worthy. He supports organizations that strengthen American democratic principles and those which promote excellence in education and the arts. He is also inclined to back organizations that defend private enterprise as well as those that protect individual rights, research, and scholarly studies. This reflects back to his program of studies at Harvard. He has a concern for the maintenance of individual rights to pursue opportunities that make a person happy.
9. He’s a chair at Juilliard
Bruce Kovner has been a supporter of the Juilliard School for many years. In 2011 he was appointed as the chairman of the board of the school. Together with his wife Suzie, the Kovners established a $60 million fund to sponsor an endowment called the Kovner Fellowship Program at Juilliard, in 2013. He also made a donation of $20 million in 2012 for a graduate program endowment in the historical performance area. In 2006, he made a gift to the school of a music manuscripts collection. He has made millions of dollars in donations to the school and is the philanthropist who has given Juilliard the biggest single donation that they have received from a private party so far.
10. He’s involved with civic organizations
Kovner has been a long-time supporter of the performing arts. He currently serves as vice-chairman of the Lincoln Center for the performing arts. He’s made significant donations to teh Lincoln Center to fund the redevelopment of the structure. In addition, he founded the School’s Choice Scholarships Foundation which awards scholarships to New York City youth who are financially disadvantaged. He is chairman of the Foundation. Finally, he is the managing director of the board of directors for the Metropolitan Opera.
11. He’s a very rich man
Bruce Kovner has an estimated net worth of $5.3 billion. He is listed on several Forbes lists with a self-made ranking of 9 out of 10. This means that he had very little outside help in achieving his status in the business world and that he is largely a self-made man. Kovner is number 125 on the Forbes 400 list for 2019 and number 337 on the Forbes Billionaires of 2019.His primary source of wealth has been in hedge funds.
12. He holds an honorary doctorate
Bruce and his wife Suzie Kovner were the recipients of honorary Doctorate degrees of Humane Letters from Juilliard in 2014. These degrees were awarded at the school’s 109th commencement ceremony. In addition to this, The Philanthropy Roundtable awarded the couple the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership in 2016. They were also given the William F. Buckley Jr. Prize for Leadership in Supporting Liberty by the National Review Institute in 2017.
13. He was involved in politics
When Bruce was a younger man, he worked as a Congressional aide. This required a fair amount of traveling. He worked on political campaigns, but this is one of the things that his education at Harvard had prepared him for. He joined forces with his mentor, Professor Banfield, at the University of Pennsylvania and he was involved in research assignments and teaching during this time.
14. He’s self-taught in investments
Mr. Kovner wasn’t formally educated in the financial markets and this is something that was new to him. He took the advice of a friend who recommended that he check it out. Since he had limited working knowledge of financial markets, he engaged in a time of intensive self-study. He learned about the history and the nature of debt, commodity and currency markets. He spent a year learning all that he could about the industry before he made the leap and borrowed $3,000 from his credit card to make his first investment.
15. He worked for Commodities Corporation
Kovner was hired in the position of a senior trader by the Commodities Corporation. This is a hedge fund that would later be acquired by the Goldman Sachs company. He worked there for six years before setting up his own company, Caxton which was one of the first modern macro hedge funds. Caxton was a rampant success which brough in tens of billions of dollars in profit for the investments that he managed.
16. Kovner was part of a think tank
It was his interest in philanthropy that spurred Kovner to join the American Enterprise Insitute. This is a Washington think tank. He and his friend Chris Demuth, a pal from Harvard were both heavily involved in AEI. Demuth was serving as President when Kovener joined the board in 1988. He was the chairman of the board for six years and he is still an active member to this day.
17. Kovner is a big supporter of civil rights
Bruce Kovner has long been a voice in support of equal justice for all as well as for educational reform. He sees the need for some big changes to be made in the way that these issues are handled in society as well as by the government. Kovner is a big supporter of the Institute for Justice. This is a public interest law firm that defends the public’s right to school choice within the nation. He also supports the Innocence Project and Centurion Ministries which aids in freeing people who have been wrongly convicted of crimes. Burce also supports Lambda Legal in the defense of lesbians, gay men and others who have had their civil rights trampled upon. Kovner is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Council on Foreign Relations.
18. He’s been known to entertain his friends with music
Bruce Kovner is a lover of music. He’s been known to invite his friends to visit him at his New York mansion for a lovely evening of music, complements by new musicians who are up and coming. He has a wonderful selection to choose from as a benefactor of the famed Juilliard School. He even took harpsichord lessons from Juilliard himself, and he’s also an accomplished pianist in his own right, studying piano when he was a youth.
19. Writer’s block ended his Ph.D. studies
We learned that Bruce Kovner was on his way to earning a Ph.D. from Harvard. He had previously graduated with his bachelor’s degree but wanted to take his education all the way to the doctorate level. He became frustrated when he developed a bad case of writer’s block. This was before he became wealthy from his stock investments. Instead of doing what some others have done and hiring a writer to do the work for him, Kovner did the honorable thing and if he couldn’t do it himself, it wasn’t going to get done. He abandoned his Ph.D. studies.
20. Bruce Kovner has gone from driving a Taxi to being a multi-billionaire
Bruce Kovner wasn’t a wealthy man when he left his studies at Harvard University. He had bills to pay like everyone else. This was before he began making a decent wage and he had spent a lot of his time pursuing his educational studies. He had to find a way to pay the rent so he took a job as a taxi driver. This had to be a dark time in his life as he had to deal with the disappointment of developing writer’s block, which is frustrating, particularly for academics, and those who have a lot to say. The words just wouldn’t come, so he went out and got a job. This was just a stop-gap effort to keep money coming in to live on. Little did Bruce know that soon, he would never have to worry about money again.