After seeing his record 2007 payday shattered by David Tepper in 2009, John Paulson has reclaimed the title of highest-paid hedge fund manager.
The Paulson & Co. chief earned a whopping $4.9 billion in 2010, according to AR magazine's annual Rich List. That topped both his own 2007 payday, $3.7 billion in a year when his hedge funds produced triple-digit returns betting against subprime mortgages, and Tepper's $4 billion payday in 2009.
Last year, the Appaloosa Management chief had to settle for fourth place, with total earnings of $2.2 billion.
"In 2001, the combined income of the top hedge fund managers was less than $5 billion—about what Paulson alone made in 2010," AR editor Michelle Celarier.
All told, the highest-paid 25 hedge managers earned $22.07 billion, more than $3 billion less than the group collectively earned in 2009. Indeed, making the top 25 list took just $210 million in earnings last year, compared to $350 million in 2009.
But the six managers who took home at least $1 billion last year—down from seven the prior year—will take it.
The second-highest-earning hedgie is Ray Dalio, head of the world's largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates. Dalio earned $3.1 billion; in 2009, he didn't even make $1 billion.
Retired Renaissance Technologies head James Simons earned $2.5 billion, SAC Capital Advisors' Steven Cohen $1.3 billion and ESL Investments' Eddie Lampert $1.1 billion.
The top 10 were rounded out by Carl Icahn with $900 million in earnings, down from $1.3 billion in 2009, Caxton Associates' Bruce Kovner with $640 million, George Soros with $450 million, down from $3.3 billion in 2009, and Tudor Investment Corp.'s Paul Tudor Jones with $440 million.
Other notable entrants on the Rich List included D.E. Shaw Group's David Shaw with $275 million in pay, Omega Advisors' Leon Cooperman with $240 million for his first appearance on the list since 2004, Moore Capital Management's Louis Bacon with $230 million and Third Point's Daniel Loeb with $210 million.
The list of those who dropped off the top 25 is equally notable. Centaurus Energy's John Arnold, who made $900 million in 2009, didn't rank last year, his first-ever down year. Neither did Harbinger Capital Partners' Philip Falcone, who earned $825 million in 2009. And Brevan Howard Asset Management's Alan Howard also fell from the list.