Here Are The Bets That Gave 10 Hedge Fund Titans Monster Returns In 2011

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The average hedge fund fell by 5% in 2011 according to Forbes. But the managers we’re about to list do not run your average hedge fund. They were the ones who conquered 2011 dismal financial markets.

The median return for 2011’s top 10 managers was $500 million — Forbes did the rankings, now we’ll explain how they got there.

Bruce Kovner (retired Sept. 2011)

Firm: Caxton Associates

Good picks: United Rentals Inc., Sotheby's, S&P Put.

Why: Kovner's firm bought approximately 3 million shares in United Rentals in Q4, netting $91 million, according to Whale Wisdom. Another $31 million came from a fresh Q3 position in Sotheby's. A Q4 S&P put worth $125 million, according to Whale Wisdom, rocketed them into Forbes' top 10.

Returns: $210 million

Source: Forbes, Whale Wisdom

John Arnold

Firm: Centaurus Advisors

Good picks: Pharmasset Inc,, Shanda Interactive Entertainment, Cephalon Inc.

Why: $161 million came from a call on Cephalon, according to Whale Wisdom, which Teva Pharmaceutical ended up purchasing in May. Gained $77 million in a call on Pharmasset Inc., Whale Wisdom notes, which was bought out by Gilead in November. The Q4 surge in Shanda Interactive Entertainment shares leading up to that firm's purchase in February yielded Arnold $31 million.

Returns: $360 million

Sources: Forbes, Insider Monkey

Nagi Kawkabani

Firm: Brevan Howard

Good picks: PowerShares QQQ ETF

Why: A mix of quarterly puts and calls on Nasdaq's main ETF, according to Whale Wisdom, yielded more than half a billion dollars for the British firm.

Returns: $400 million

Sources: Forbes, Whale Wisdom

Kenneth Griffin

Firm: Citadel

Good bets: Apple, Google

Why: Reaped millions from Apple and Google put/call arbitrages, according to Whale Wisdom. Apple gained 26% on the year; Google, 8.7%

Returns: $400 million

Sources: Forbes, Whale Wisdom

Chase Coleman

Firm: Tiger Global Management

Good bets: Yandex, Apple, Google

Why: Instantly made more than $1 billion on IPO of Russian search engine Yandex last May.

Returns: $500 million

Sources: Forbes, Whale Wisdom

David Shaw

Firm: D.E. Shaw

Good bets: Apple, Google, Medco Health Solutions Inc.

Why: Another Apple and Google arbitrageur; also went all-in on Medco, buying 5.8 million shares over the course of the year for a yield of $325.

Returns: $580 million

Sources: Forbes, Whale Wisdom

Steve Cohen

Firm: SAC Capital Advisors

Good bets: Apple, S&P Puts, Gilead Sciences, Boeing

Why: Gilead gained 13% on the year; Boeing, 12%.

Returns: $600 million

Sources: Forbes, Whale Wisdom

Carl Icahn

Firm: Icahn Capital Management

Good bets: El Paso, Motorola Mobility

Why: Those two companies alone netted Icahn more than $1 billion, according to Whale Wisdom. El Paso shares doubled in 2011 to $26.57 after it was bought by Kinder Morgan; Motorola Mobility's purchase by Google caused its share price to surge 65%.

Returns: $2 billion

Source: Forbes, Whale Wisdom

James Simons

Firm: Renaissance Technologies

Good bets: Chipotle, Herbalife, Eli Lilly

Why: Chipotle shares gained 55% on the year; Herbalife, 50%; Eli Lilly, 18%.

Returns: $2.1 billion

Source: Forbes, Whale Wisdom

Ray Dalio

Firm: Bridgewater Associates

Good bets: EEM, VWO, SPY

Why: Rode emerging market ETFs to gains of more than $700 million, and plain old vanilla SPY to another $300 million in yield.

Returns: $3 billion

Source: Forbes, Whale Wisdom

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