| NEW YORK, Sept 21
NEW YORK, Sept 21 The latest insider trading
charges by U.S. securities regulators placed an unwelcome
spotlight on billionaire Leon Cooperman, the son of a Bronx
plumber who rose to become one of the most gifted stock pickers
of his generation.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission
charged Cooperman and his hedge fund firm, Omega Advisors, with
illegal trading in Atlas Pipeline Partners six years ago after
they found out about the planned sale of a unit.
Cooperman, 73, denied the allegations. If
proven true, they would be a stain on an otherwise well-regarded
career spanning five decades. (reut.rs/2cKq96l)
The child of Polish immigrants, Cooperman worked his way
into Columbia Business School, where he learned the art of value
investing, or scouting out mispriced stocks through deep
research on companies.
He honed that skill over 25 years at Goldman Sachs Group Inc
, where he focused on stock research and eventually led
its asset management unit. In 1991, Cooperman left the bank to
The New York-based investment firm has often produced
exceptional returns since launching in 1991. It grew to nearly
$11 billion in mid-2014, but has faltered since then, with
assets shrinking to $5.4 billion as of Aug. 31.
Still, Omega Advisors has averaged annual gains of 11.2
percent from its inception through July, according to a report
by HSBC's Alternative Investment Group. That compares with a 9.3
percent gain for the S&P 500 Index over the same period,
Cooperman's investment returns can be volatile. The firm has
often posted double-digit gains after big losses. In 2008, for
example, Omega's main fund fell 35 percent, only to rebound with
a 53 percent gain in 2009.
Cooperman is now worth an estimated $3.1 billion, according
to Forbes, thanks to prescient calls such as his prediction that
stocks would rebound in early 2009.
"He's a renowned value investor," said Michael Rosen, chief
investment officer of Angeles Investment Advisors in Santa
Monica, California. "Few have put together a track record as
long and as successful as he has."
Rosen said he has never invested in Omega but has tracked
Cooperman's career since his time at Goldman Sachs. Cooperman
declined to comment beyond his letter to investors on Wednesday
in which he denied the SEC's allegations.
Cooperman's friends and acquaintances say he is defined by
three traits: frugality, addiction to work, and outspoken
He has been known, for example, to hang office art by
himself to avoid paying for the service and dodge the cost of a
hotel by sleeping at a friend's home. He regularly works 14-hour
days, usually including numerous meetings and calls with
corporate executives and grilling his investment staff.
Cooperman routinely appears on cable television channel CNBC
and at investment conferences to tout his views on the stock
market. He also likes to share political opinions, famously
writing an open letter to President Barack Obama in 2011 to
criticize the "divisive, polarizing" rhetoric against
businesspersons like himself.
Cooperman and his wife, Toby, have been married for more
than 50 years. They met in a French class at Hunter College. The
couple, who split time between Florida and New Jersey, have two
sons. One runs a hedge fund and the other is a fish
conservationist. In 2010, he and Toby signed the Giving Pledge,
a commitment to give a majority of their wealth to charity.
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)