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Jan 10

Profile on David Tepper

Bloomberg profiles David Tepper, who runs Appaloosa Management, which is responsible for managing the best performing hedge fund (with AUM of $1 billion) over the first ten months of 2009.  During that period, the flagship Appaloosa fund returned over 117% (an appaloosa is a type of horse).

Tepper has lived with his wife, Marlene, in the same spacious, stone-faced contemporary house in a nearby town since 1991. He owns no vacation homes. His three children either graduated from or still attend local public schools. He coached their softball, baseball and soccer teams. …

While Tepper is pleased to have done so well in 2009, he remembers the mistakes of 2008 just as vividly [when his fund lost almost 30%]. …

David Alan Tepper started modestly. He was born in Pittsburgh in 1957 to Harry Tepper, an accountant, and his wife, Roberta, an elementary school teacher. He grew up in a redbrick house in the neighborhood of Stanton Heights. One of his hobbies was collecting baseball cards — and impressing his friends by spouting statistics on the local Pirates and other teams.

“My memory is almost photographic, not quite,” Tepper says. “It drives my analysts crazy.”

Nevertheless, he was an indifferent student at Pittsburgh Peabody High School, he says, and something of a class clown. He remembers being kicked out of one class and told by the teacher, “Go roam the halls and act like the animal you are.”

Tepper began buying penny stocks in high school, sometimes conferring with his father on the subject. As a student at the University of Pittsburgh, he got more sophisticated, developing a system for options trading that helped pay his expenses.

He graduated with a degree in economics in 1978. Later he enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University’s Graduate School of Industrial Administration. At his first presentation, in front of 150 classmates and the dean of the school, Tepper explained how changing one input variable wouldn’t affect the outcome of a particular equation.

“I don’t give a shit what you put in here,” Tepper told the class, tapping on the blackboard.

After a pause, his fellow students burst out laughing. At the annual student follies, they composed a song to the tune of the Dr. Pepper advertising jingle: “I don’t give a shit. Be a Tepper. Be like Tepper.”

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