Quitting is never easy -- especially for the alpha types who make up the $3 trillion hedge fund industry. Yet some of the best-known founders have thrown in the towel this year after fortune-making decades in the business.

These traders all had their own reasons to hang it up. But there were some common factors behind the decisions: the challenge of competing with an ever-rising stock market, the difficulty of raising enough assets and, for many, the march of time. As 63-year-old Jonathan Kolatch told investors earlier this month when announcing his retirement: “If I don’t step away now, it’s not clear I will ever get away from my desk.”

But while the reasons are few, the ways to leave, as Paul Simon knows, are many. In an industry built on the cult of the successful money manager, stepping away isn’t always straightforward. Below, we take a look at the various methods some of Wall Street’s biggest names — from David Tepper to Louis Bacon — have chosen to say `goodbye’ this year.

Give ’em the Slip, Chip

As the hedge fund industry slowly becomes more institutionalized, some founders have created succession plans to keep their firms going after they leave the stage.

Kolatch, who ran Redwood Capital Management for two decades, is leaving the firm to his lieutenants. Ruben Kliksberg and Sean Sauler already managed funds at the firm and are well known to his clients. “Hedge fund managers are a bit like professional athletes,” Kolatch wrote in his farewell letter. “They both have limited shelf lives.”

King Street Capital Management surprised investors in October with the news that Fran Biondi, 55, who co-founded the firm in 1995 with Brian Higgins, would be retiring next year. The move leaves Higgins in charge along with two other long-term employees who were promoted as co-chief investment officers alongside him, David Walch and Paul Goldschmid. Some clients, taken aback by the move, have asked to pull money from the firm, according to people familiar with the matter.

While 77-year-old Willem Kooyker decided to shutter his Blenheim Capital Management (once the world’s largest commodity fund) he’s keeping things going in one way: Most of his clients transferred their investments to a new firm managed by his son Terence.

Trade Your Own Dough, Joe

For those not happy entrusting the firms they have built to others, the traditional way to leave the industry is to kick clients out and become a family office. It’s a path trodden by some of the all-time greats, including George Soros, Stan Druckenmiller and Leon Cooperman.

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