Sure, he only pays a rate of 8.97 percent in New Jersey state income taxes, but Appaloosa Management founder David Tepper has been the highest paid hedge fund manager in the industry for at least two recent years, and Appaloosa itself holds $20 billion in assets.
In 2014, news broke that Tepper and his wife of 28 years, Marlene, were considering a divorce.
This set off a series of events that may have left as much as a $140 million hole in New Jersey’s income tax base.
Wealthy people often complain of being overtaxed while they pay much lower tax rates than the majority of the working class.
Seeing Tepper’s story, it’s easy to be a little more sympathetic to that view.
Queens Divorce Attorneys Explains How Finances Can Change During A Divorce
Tepper, 58, is notoriously private, but with a career as high flying as his, it’s hard to keep everything to yourself.
Public utterances Tepper makes to the financial press move markets, and the bets he made at the outset of the financial crisis cemented both his fortune and his standing as a fund manager.
It’s an unlikely outcome for a kid from Pittsburgh whose mom taught public school.
In college, he studied economics, and earned a master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon University, landing at Keystone Mutual Funds in Boston in 1984.
From there, he was recruited to Goldman Sachs and moved to New York.
Within six months, he was leading the high-yield desk at Goldman, and spent eight years at the firm.
His tenure ended after then-Goldman boss Jon Corzine passed him over for a partnership for a second time.
He went out on his own, founding Appaloosa Management in 1993. It turned out to be a great bet.
In 1986, he had married Marlene and the couple had settled in Livingston, New Jersey, where they would eventually raise three children.
In the 2000s, Appaloosa took off, producing returns of 61% in 2001 through a strategy of focusing on distressed bonds and long-shot stocks.
He turned a hefty profit in the financial crisis by betting that the government would step in and prop up the big banks, which were otherwise teetering on the brink of collapse.
He made more than $7.5 billion with that canny trade, pocketing $4 billion of the profits himself.
That willingness to put it all out there, and his instincts for successful picks, earned him the title of the top-earning hedge fund manager for 2009, a ranking he’d claim again in 2012.
Forbes lists him as the 166th richest person in the world, and one of the highest-earning hedge fund managers alive.
His annual income routinely exceeds one billion dollars.
He’s also warmed slightly to press attention as his fortune has grown.
After his $4 billion payday in 2009, he told New York Magazine, “What do you think I should do with it? I could buy an island. I could buy a private jet. I could get myself a 22-year-old!” Maybe the eventual end of the marriage wasn’t as big of a surprise to its participants as many imagine.
Tepper and Marlene are dedicated philanthropists, but Tepper has also used his enormous wealth to settle some scores.
In 2011, Tepper reportedly took great satisfaction in buying a $43.5 million beachfront estate in the Hamptons from Joanne Corzine, the ex-wife of his old Goldman boss.
What does a billionaire with a grudge do when he takes ownership of a rival’s former property? He demolishes the place, and builds an even bigger and more lavish estate, with better views of the water and the sunset from the main house.
The new home features large windows that run the length of the second-floor dining room, as well as an oversized pool, pool house, a tennis court, a multiple-car garage, and a large second-floor deck outfitted with a Jacuzzi.
Incidentally, the Hamptons pad is reportedly where Tepper was living for as long as a year before word of the pending divorce leaked.
Marlene remained in their Livingston home, and Appaloosa Management continued to be headquartered in Short Hills, New Jersey.
When the news broke in mid-2014, friends said that the couple was hoping for a quiet, quick, and amicable divorce.
But with a net worth estimated in the mid-$11 billion range, all of it part of the marital estate, a lengthy negotiation process would be par for the course.
As the couple hoped, media reports after the initial flurry of coverage died off, and whatever terms the pair negotiated, and even when the divorce became final, are not part of the public record.
$11 billion will buy you a lot of privacy, it seems. At the end of 2016, Marlene became the sole owner of their Livingston mansion, which is valued at $2.1 million, buying out her husband’s share of the property for a single dollar.
David Tepper, much to the chagrin of the State of New Jersey, bought a condo on the beach in Miami in 2015 and promptly filed court documents declaring himself a resident of Florida – which has no state income tax.
He opened a branch of Appaloosa close by in South Beach, though the company is still headquartered in Short Hills.
When he lived there, Tepper was the wealthiest person in New Jersey, and his astronomical annual income contributed as much as $140 million to the state’s tax base.
New Jersey residents pay the highest property tax in the country, and are subject both to estate taxes at death and inheritance taxes on the heirs to an estate.
It seems that Tepper intends to keep pulling in huge amounts of income, while wife Marlene may choose to live off of dividends and enjoy the much lower tax burden that investment income provides.
Both, it appears, have found a bit of shelter through the divorce. The State of New Jersey will just have to scrape by with less.
When your marriage in Queens is ending, work with an experienced team who can protect your interests and see you through.
Call Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino today at 718-523-1111 and talk to an experienced Queens divorce lawyer for free.