Tepper runs Appaloosa Management, a $12 billion hedge fund that specializes in buying up stakes in distressed companies.
The son of an accountant and public schoolteacher, Tepper was a high school football and drama standout, and began investing during his undergrad years at the University of Pittsburgh. After picking up an MBA from Carnegie Mellon, he started his career at Republic Steel and Boston's Keystone Mutual Funds before joining Goldman in 1986. He went on to run the firm's bond desk, but after he was passed up for partner three times in a row—a decision he attributes to internal politics—he bolted, setting up his own hedge fund, Appaloosa Management, in 1993. Tepper's Chatham, New Jersey-based firm currently has more than $12 billion under management.
Until 2007, Appaloosa had generated annual returns of 30 percent or more, including a stunning 150 percent return in 2003. In 2005, the fund bought a big stake in Delphi, becoming one of the largest holders of its shares and bonds, and later led a highly-publicized bid to acquire the auto parts manufacturer, teaming up with Steve Feinberg's Cerberus Capital and Phil Falcone's Harbinger Capital to carry out the transaction. In April 2008, Tepper announced he was abandoning the plan. But he rebounded in a big way in 2009 by buying up shares in distressed financial services companies at the height of the financial crisis. His bet on banks like Citigroup and Bank of America in 2009 earned his fund $7 billion in 2009, $2.5 billion of which went into Tepper's own pockets.
Tepper was estimated to be worth $3.5 billion in 2010, according to Forbes.
In 2004, Tepper donated $55 million to Carnegie Mellon's business school. The school now carries Tepper's name.
On the side
Tepper purchased a stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers football team in 2009. He flies to Pittsburgh for every home game.
David has been married to Marlene Tepper since 1986. They have three kids, Brian, Randi and Casey. Although he's been known for living modestly in the past—sending his kids to public school and living in a two-story home in Livingston, NJ—Tepper made a splashy move in 2010 by buying a 6,200-square-foot mansion in Sagaponack that had been on the market for $50 million.