In just eight years, Wesley Edens has built New York-based Fortress into one of the most respected firms in the private equity, real estate and distressed investing arenas with more than $24 billion in equity capital under management. A number of pension fund consultants—who see the real nitty gritty of a firm's returns—put him near the top of their list.
Though Edens has had a long career in the financial arena, working at a number of Wall Street investment banks including Smith Barney, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and UBS, his star really took off when he became an independent operator. When Edens left UBS with his 40-strong team to set up Fortress in 1998, it was said in the press that Edens was relishing the chance to invest sans the corporate culture he'd been bucking heads with throughout his career.
At Fortress, Edens has made his name in a number of different fields—the firm purchased Michael Jackson's bad debt last year and was recently named financial advisor to beleaguered hedge fund Amaranth Advisors—but his firm has done particularly well in the private equity real estate arena. In recent years, it has made significant acquisitions in the German housing sector—at press time, the firm was gearing up to list approximately 20 percent of its holdings in the German residential company Gagfah.
In terms of public listings, Edens was making noises that Fortress might one day go public as early as 1998. Earlier this fall, rumors once again began circulating that the secretive firm is eyeing an IPO.