After graduating from Oregon State University, Wesley Robert Edens took on a position with California Savings and Loan. He swiftly followed this up with stints at Merril Lynch and Smith Barney, before joining Lehman Brothers in 1987. He served as partner and managing director of the company until 1993, when he left to join Blackrock Financial Management. Since then, he’s taken on numerous projects, including founding Fortress Investment Group in 1998, acquiring the Milwaukee Bucks in 2014, and launching the esports team Flyquest in 2017. With each new year bringing a fresh round of successes, Edens is a name you’ll sure to be hearing a lot more off in the future.
1. He own’s an English football club
In July 2018, Edens, along with Nassef Sawiris, bought a significant share in English Championship football club, Aston Villa. “As lifelong football fans, we are excited and privileged to have become part of this great club,” Sawiris and Edens said at the time. It’s hoped the cash injection from the deal will help restore and strengthen the club’s fortunes after several years of financial and sporting woes. “In finding such strong partners as Nassef and Wes we’re gearing up to fight again and bring back the success that this club deserves and we all so want to provide it with”, Villa Owner Dr Tony Xia shared.
2. He’s a dedicated family-man
Edens and his wife Linda share four children. In 2014, the family courted controversy when youngest daughter Mallory appeared as the Milwaukee Buck’s team representative at that year’s NBA draft lottery. The then 19-year-old was the subject of a column by sportswriter Chris Sheridan that, among other things, called her a “trophy daughter”. The sleazily written piece drew much criticism, not least from Mallory herself, who took to Twitter to voice her disgust. “So just for clarity, common thread that underwrites “trophy” wife, daughter, and “GF” is women = possessions, right?” she fired at the columnist.
3. He’s a mountaineer
When he’s not making a fortune in the boardroom, Edens can be found scaling the heights of some of the world’s biggest mountains. His interest in mountaineering started at a young age, but Edens largely abandoned the pursuit after entering university. In recent years, he’s reignited his passion, first conquering Grand Teton, the highest peak in the state of Wyoming, before moving on to Matterhorn in Switzerland. While mastering Pingora Peak in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, Edens nearly met a nasty end when he slipped into an almost fatal free fall. Thankfully, all ended well, but the experience clearly left a mark, with Edens revealing to Forbes, “I had trouble sleeping for a while.”
4. He’s a keen equestrian
If the sports- mad Edens isn’t scaling a mountain, he’s likely to be found on the back of a horse. The keen equestrian lists horse jumping as one of his favorite activities… although whether it loves him back is a matter of debate. Between 2010 and 2015 alone, Edens endured three major surgeries after his passion left him with a herniated disc in his spine, a torn tendon in his finger, and a broken arm.
5. He’s a billionaire
Edens achieved billionaire status in 2007 after Fortress Investment Group (the private equity firm Edens co-funded alongside Robert Kaufman and Randal Nardone), went public. From its foundation in 1998 to the time of its public offering in 2007, Fortress enjoyed remarkable growth, expanding its domain into hedge funds, real estate-related investments and debt securities. By the time of its launch on the NYSE, it was the largest private equity firm in the US to be traded publicly.
6. His Alma mater named him ‘Distinguished Business Professional’
In May 2009, Edens was awarded the title of ‘Distinguished Business Professional’ by Oregon State University. The University started the tradition in 2003 as a way of recognizing past students who had achieved the greatest success in business. According to the University website, the award honors those who have “demonstrated innovation and excellence in their fields with quantitative and qualitative results that evidence great impact”. Other notable recipients of the title include president of Reser’s Fine Foods, Mark Reser, director at Micron Technologies, Steven Gomo, and former chairman of Merant Inc, E. Scott Hildebrandt.
7. He’s a philanthropist
Edens has taken an active interest in social causes and is believed to have donated more than $2.7 million to educational and charitable foundations over the years. According to Wealthx, lucky recipients of Edens’ generosity include Macalester College, who Edens donated $1 million to between 2011 and 2016, GiveWell, who received $200,00 between 2008 and 2009, and Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, who were gifted $700,00 between 2006 and 2010. In addition to his personal contributions, Edens has been instrumental in donating more than $90,000 to educational and health causes in his position as trustee of the Chinook Charitable Trust.
8. He bought the Milwaukee Bucks for $550 million
In 2014, Edens and business partner Mark Lasry banded together to acquire the Milwaukee Bucks from former owner, Herb Kohl, in a $550 million deal. As part of the deal, Edens and Lasry pledged to keep the team in Milwaukee, along with guaranteeing an additional $100 million each towards developing a new arena in the city. “We are lifelong basketball fans who are committed to the success of the Bucks and the identity of the team as a part of the city of Milwaukee. We are as passionate and energized as Bucks fans are about bringing home an NBA championship to Milwaukee”, the partners shared in a joint statement to the NBA. Under the new leadership, the team’s fortunes have been on the rise: as of February 2019, Forbes puts the Buck’s worth at $1.4B.
9. He bought private passenger trains back to Florida
Private passenger trains may have helped shape Florida, but in recent times, their appeal has waned. Edens decided to buck the trend by investing in Brightline Train, which started running routes between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale in May 2018, before extending its service to Miami. Brightline has ambitions to roll out across all major cities in the US; judging by the success it’s seen in Florida, its likely to be very well received if it does.
10. He’s been called the “new king of subprime lending”
In 2010, Edens acquired 80% of subprime lender Springleaf Financial Services in a deal worth a reported $125 million. Within 5 years, the company’s value had grown to $3.5 billion- more than 27 times the value of Edens initial investment. Edens’ success in transforming the company’s fortunes led Wall Street Journal to name him the “new king of subprime lending”.