Lee Fixel is leaving Tiger Global

Lee Fixel, the low-flying head of Tiger Global’s private equity business, is leaving at the end of June, the firm announced today in a letter sent to clients and seen by Reuters. Scott Shleifer and Chase Coleman will continue as co-managers of the portfolios Fixel has overseen, with Shleifer taking over as its head, according to the letter.

Fixel, 39, is reportedly planning to invest his own money and “may start an investment firm in the future,” Tiger Global wrote in the letter.

The move comes as a bit of a surprise. Despite that Fixel has operated largely in the shadows, avoiding public appearances unlike many investors, he has had an outsized impact on the venture industry over the last decade or so, as Tiger has shown up on the cap tables of a growing number of venture-backed companies. Among its portfolio companies is Stripe, the payments company that’s currently valued at $23 billion by private investors (with no apparent plans to go public); the home fitness startup Peloton (Tiger led its Series B); Panda Selected, a Beijing-based shared-kitchen company that just raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Tiger; and Olo, a 13-year-old mobile and online ordering platform for restaurant chains, which sold $18 million worth of secondary shares to Tiger in January.

Over time, investors in Silicon Valley who once viewed Fixel as something of a casino capitalist came to deeply respect him, seemingly, with Benchmark’s Bill Gurley referring publicly to Fixel as among the smartest investors on the scene. There’s some evidence to support the claim, including the sale last year of Glassdoor, the jobs and salary website, to the Japanese human resources company Recruit Holdings for $1.2 billion in cash; Spotify’s direct listing on the U.S. stock market last year; and the more traditional IPOs last year of Eventbrite and SurveyMonkey. Tiger had backed all of them.

Tiger has also cashed in big on privately held companies in India, into which it plowed at least $2 billion over the last decade. Its biggest win ties to an early bet on Flipkart, which sold the majority of its e-commerce business to retail giant Walmart last year for $16 billion, but an early bet on the ride-hailing company Ola also appears to have paid off. (Tiger reportedly sold part of its stake to SoftBank but seems to remain a believer in the company, more newly investing in its electric mobility unit.)

Tiger was founded by Coleman, a protégé of hedge fund pioneer Julian Robertson, in 2000. Shleifer joined two years later, and Fixel came aboard in 2006.

This is not the firm’s first major leadership change. In 2015, one of its investment heads, Feroz Dwan, left to set up his own investment firm, now called Arena Holdings Management, in New York.

Whether Fixel follows a similar path remains to be seen. It’s also easy to see a firm like SoftBank, which Fixel knows through Ola, Flipkart and other deals, trying to bring him into the fold if he’s amenable. In fact, Tiger invested $1 billion directly to SoftBank Group last year, saying its shares were undervalued.

In the meantime, Fixel appears to be focusing in part on his family. In January, he and his wife gave the University of Florida a $20 million gift in support of a research institute focused on neurological diseases that has been named after his father Norman, who suffers from Parkinson’s. His father and his wife are both alums of the school.

Tiger’s clients are meanwhile still absorbing the news, presumably.  Said Tiger’s letter to them: “Lee has been a driving force behind the expansion of Tiger Global’s private equity investing activities in the United States and India, and he has distinguished himself as a world-class investor across multiple sectors and stages.”