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Fall Of The Wizard

Julian Robertson was the best stock-picker on the Street. Has he lost his magic?

Julian H. Robertson Jr. is warming to his subject. He is bald and burly, over six feet tall, 63 years old, with a deep, booming North Carolina drawl. The subject is stocks, and Robertson is alive, animated. Uni Storebrands. Ever heard of it? Robertson has. And how. It is his largest holding--an obscure Norwegian insurance company. He'd like to buy more, but local regulations forbid it. Swiss Reinsurance Co. is another favorite. So is Harrah's Entertainment Inc. Citicorp? Absolutely. Japanese banks are another matter. "The worst in the world," he says flatly.

Stocks are what turned Julian Robertson from an obscure broker-turned-money manager into a power in the world markets. Robertson is the founder and chairman of Tiger Management Corp., Wall Street's global-investing powerhouse. George Soros may be the savant of the currency markets, but when it comes to stocks, Julian Robertson is the master--poised, ivory-towerish, in a top-floor, glass-walled office on Park Avenue. And even as a global currency-trading "macro" player, he could give Soros a run for his money. Year after year of brilliant returns lured the high-octane investors--at $5 million or more a head--who turned $8 million in 1980 into $7.2 billion in 1996. Robertson was ahead of the curve on every major trend in investing, from the surge in European equities that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall to the tumult in the global bond markets in 1992 and 1993.