The Richest People In America: John Paulson

CHIP EAST/Reuters /Landov

#82 John Paulson

$4.5 billion
Source: hedge funds

Shrewd investor pocketed $3.5 billion shorting subprime credit last year; windfall believed to be largest one-year payday in Wall Street history. Net worth was less than $300 million in early 2007. New York native studied finance at NYU. M.B.A. from Harvard, then stints at Odyssey Partners, Bear Stearns. Founded Paulson & Co. in 1994. In 2005 became convinced U.S. economy would soon fail; asked employees to find "bubble" to short. Took advantage of perceived weakness in real estate market by executing complex debt trades, betting against ABX (mortgage) index. Firm's Credit Opportunities fund up 590% net of fees last year. Assets under management now $35 billion, up 400% since end of 2006. This year funds are beating S&P by more than 20% on bets against subprime, credit cards.

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