Scott Shleifer steered billions into startups for Tiger Global. With his reign now over, the industry wonders what’s next.

  • Billionaire Scott Shleifer stepped down from his role leading Tiger Global’s private investing unit.
  • The firm has been accused of fostering a “bro culture” that led to a $10 million settlement.
  • Many of Tiger’s private bets have struggled thanks to rising interest rates and a global slowdown.

Few investors embody the no-interest-rate private market frenzy more than billionaire Scott Shleifer.

Longtime Tiger Global executive, who stepped down as head of the firm’s private investing unit last week, led the rapid funding charge that left longtime venture capital players somewhere between irritated and bemused. Tiger’s venture strategy in 2020 and 2021, which rivals repeatedly described as unsustainable, included maneuvers such as offering start-ups more money than they asked for and emailing term sheets to founders after a single meeting.

However, strong returns resulted in a fundraising frenzy. The private portfolio’s assets grew to more than $65 billion by the end of 2021, dwarfing Tiger’s founder Chase Coleman’s public investment book. Bets ranged from TikTok parent company ByteDance to Indian start-ups raising seed rounds to payments giant Stripe.

Tiger’s venture success increased Shleifer’s reputation and personal wealth. He paid more than $120 million for Donald Trump’s old Florida mansion. According to Institutional Investor, he made $1.5 billion in 2020 alone.

However, as the spotlight shone brighter, cracks began to appear. An exposé on the bankrupt office-sharing company revealed a story about him puking on WeWork chairman Michael Gross’s small dog after a night out. Investors learned of a $10 million settlement Tiger Global made to a former female employee while Tiger was fundraising late last year. According to Business Insider, current and former employees expressed concerns about the workplace culture and Shleifer, whom some found unprofessional.

As markets began to turn and interest rates began to rise, the firm’s strategy of moving quickly — and relying on legions of Bain consultants for diligence — proved more difficult. Despite marking it down 33% last year, the firm has struggled to sell secondary shares of its private portfolio at its own internal book valuations. John Curtius, a former rising star, left to start his own fund.

Tiger had to refute a widely circulated and anonymously written memo from a former employee detailing alleged internal issues, calling the claims “a pack of lies” to investors.

The future of Tiger’s private market strategy is unknown at this time, though Shleifer will remain involved as a senior adviser and member of the private portfolio’s investment committee, which includes Tiger’s COO Eric Lane and two partners, Evan Feinberg and Griffin Schroeder. Coleman will preside over the committee.

One region to keep an eye on is India, which produced one of the firm’s big winners this year. The firm’s investment in Flipkart, which generated $3.5 billion in profits after Walmart purchased Tiger’s stake, was one of the year’s biggest wins in the venture capital industry. Locally, however, there is concern that the firm will withdraw from the region following Shleifer’s departure, according to one Indian financial publication. In comparison to 2021, the firm has taken a step back from funding new companies in India in recent years, though Shleifer told LPs earlier this year that the region “is still the best place to invest.”

Because private market strategies are less liquid, succession risk in alternative funds is much more acute, according to Sarah Samuels, head of investment manager research for NEPC, which advises more than $1 trillion in institutional capital on which funds to back.

“Institutions are made up of people, and people change,” Samuels said, referring to leadership changes at investment managers in general.

“A lack of proactiveness and transparency,” she said, is a common stumbling block for leadership transitions. At least one Tiger investor was surprised to learn of it from Coleman rather than Shleifer.

According to Axios, Shleifer’s new role will not trigger any “key man” provision, which would allow investors to redeem or rescind their commitment, and the firm is still talking to investors about its 16th private fund. It missed its fundraising target at the first close, but it still received $2.7 billion in commitments, as previously reported by Business Insider.

Coleman explained the move to investors in a recent letter, which The Information first reported on. “Tiger Global is operating in-person out of our New York offices, whereas Scott and his family have made their home in Florida and want to stay there,” Coleman wrote in an email. According to a source close to the fund, he is still very much a part of the organization.

Tiger declined to comment further than the letter.

Beyond the day-to-day changes that Tiger is now experiencing, there are questions within the industry about the validity of Coleman’s stated reason for the change.

Another allocator, speculating on Tiger’s future after declining the opportunity to participate in the latest private fundraising round, compared it to OpenAI’s now-returned-to-the-throne CEO Sam Altman’s departure from the top of Y Combinator. It was stated in a company blog post four years ago that Altman stepped down as chairman to focus on artificial intelligence. Nonetheless, Y Combinator founder Paul Graham fired him, according to the Washington Post.

“It feels weirdly similar,” this person said.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply