Raj Rajaratnam Biography

Business Leader (1957–)
Sri Lankan billionaire Raj Rajaratnam was arrested for insider trading in 2009 as part of the largest ever SEC case against a hedge fund.


Born in Sri Lanka in 1957, Raj Rajaratnam became a billionaire during the technology boom of the 1990s but was arrested in 2009 for insider trading. Twenty-one more employees of his hedge fund, Galleon, were subsequently arrested--the largest ever case against a hedge fund.

Early Life and Career

Raj Rajaratnam was born on June 15, 1957, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He earned an undergraduate degree in engineering at the University of Sussex in England in 1980, and a master's in business administration from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in 1983.

Rajaratnam began his career in finance as a lending officer at Chase Manhattan Bank, where he made loans to high-tech companies. He shifted his focus to investments in the electronics industry at banking boutique Needham & Co., where he started in 1985. At Needham he began a hedge fund that mainly invested in technology stocks. He would later buy the fund, and rename it Galleon. Rajaratnam quickly rose through the ranks, becoming head of research in 1987. In 1991, by the age of 34, Rajaratnam was named president of Needham.

The technology boom of the 1990s put Rajaratnam on the fast track to success. Galleon brought in extraordinary returns, its main fund rising 93 percent in 1999. Rajaratnam developed a reputation as an aggressive buyer and seller with a robust personality. He saw his personal fortune grow immensely and, in 2009, Forbes magazine ranked him the 236th richest American, with an estimated net worth of $1.8 billion. Rajaratnam is also believed to be the world's richest Sri Lankan.

The billionaire became known for his charitable giving, setting up a local charity after the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, and giving millions of dollars to other causes related to his home country. Rajaratnam also donated $30,800 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

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