Bruce A. Karsh was born in 1955 to a Jewish family, the son of David H. Karsh, and Roberta “Bobby” Karsh. In 1974, he graduated from Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis. In 1977, Karsh earned an A.B. degree in economics from Duke University where he graduated summa cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1980 he earned a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, where he received the academic award Order of the Coif. While at the University of Virginia he served as notes Editor for the Virginia Law Review.
In 1987, Broad's insurance company became a client of TCW Group. Shortly thereafter, Karsh was hired by Howard Marks to manage distressed debt at TCW. TCW's first distressed debt fund was started in 1988. Karsh served as Managing Director of TCW and managed the Special Credits Funds there.
In April 1995, Karsh, Howard Marks, and three other employees at TCW left their firm to found Oaktree Capital Management. Karsh became a portfolio manager for Oaktree's Distressed Opportunities and Value Opportunities strategies and Chief Investment Officer for the firm.
In 1998 Karsh and his wife started the charitable organization the Karsh Family Foundation, which has donated or committed over $200 million for education and scholarships across all levels. Among their recipients have been Teach for America and KIPP. Karsh is on the board of The Painted Turtle, a non-profit organization that operates a camp for children with life-threatening diseases in Los Angeles. The Foundation also helped fund a renovation project to create the Karsh Student Services Center at the University of Virginia Law School.
The Karshes have given over $100 million to Duke University, almost all of which went to undergraduate financial aid. This included $12 million in 2005, $20 million in 2008, and $50 million in 2011 ($30 million for U.S. students and $20 million for international students).
In 2009 he became Director of Charter Communications. Karsh is currently on the investment committee of the Broad Foundation and an Executive Board Member of the Golden State Warriors.
Karsh joined the Board of Directors for Duke University’s investment management company (DUMAC) in 2002, and in July 2005 was appointed Chairman. He served on the Duke University Board of Trustees from 2003 to 2015 and is now Trustee Emeritus.