Billionaire Chess Master Found as Pegasystems Leaps 122%

Pegasystems Inc. Chairman Alan Trefler became a billionaire yesterday as shares in the customer relationship management software maker he founded jumped 122 percent so far this year to a record high.

Trefler owns more than 52 percent of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based business, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. His stake is valued at about $960 million, excluding shares pledged as collateral. He also has collected about $50 million from dividends and share sales since 1996, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Pegasystems sales increased 12 percent to $356 million in the first nine months of 2013, fueled by demand for an upgrade to its main software product, Pega 7, which is designed to allow companies to integrate their data and software systems.

“They really improved the usability for non-IT people,” said Bruce Temkin, managing partner of Temkin Group, in a phone interview from his office in Waban, Massachusetts. “This particular release helps businesspeople define what they want to do with their processes that touch customers. That has driven a lot of their success lately.”

Brian Callahan, a Pegasystems spokesman, said in an e-mail that Trefler declined to comment on his net worth.

Pegasystems jumped 4.8 percent yesterday on volume almost double its three-month average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The software maker has outpaced its peers on the Russell 2000 Technology index by more than 1 percent.

Chess Master

“I think what you are seeing with the recent surge is their latest release taps into some key trends in the market,” Timkin said.

The 57-year-old billionaire was raised in Boston. His father was a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the U.S. after World War II and opened an antiques restoration business in Brookline, Massachusetts, according to the company’s website. His mother was a Russian immigrant and schoolteacher who stressed to Trefler and his brother, Leon, the value of hard work and education, according to her 2011 obituary.

Trefler was a chess prodigy in his youth. He tied for first place at the World Open Chess Championship in 1975, while studying at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he received a degree in economics and computer science. He formed Pegasystems in 1983.

The billionaire and his wife, Pamela, live in Brookline and support urban education efforts through their foundation. He competed in a 2010 charity chess tournament alongside grandmasters, including Garry Kasparov. On a trip to India last year, Trefler took on 15 students simultaneously at a chess academy, according to his blog page on the Pegasystems website.

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