John Paulson's comeback was validated this week with a trio of awards.
After steep losses in 2011 and 2012, $21 billion Paulson & Co. was named hedge fund firm of the year at the 2013 Absolute Return Awards in New York City Tuesday night. Two Paulson funds, Recovery and International, also won best in their respective categories at the annual event hosted by the industry news and data service of HedgeFund Intelligence.
Paulson beat out $17.8 billion Canyon Capital Advisors, $16.1 billion Citadel, $7.1 billion Graham Capital Management, $3.8 billion Owl Creek Asset Management, $14.8 billion Two Sigma Investments and $6 billion Visium Asset Management for Management Firm of the Year. Paulson last won the award in 2009.
The Paulson Recovery fund won the prize for best event-driven vehicle with a 2013 net gain of 65.11 percent and a Sharpe score of 4.44. Sharpe scores measure performance on a risk-adjusted basis:The higher the score, the lower the risk compared to a virtually risk-free U.S. Treasury bill.
Paulson's International fund was named best arbitrage and convertible offering with a gain of 15.83 percent and a Sharpe of 3.64 in 2013.
A spokesman for Paulson & Co., which has garnered 11 medals overall from the Absolute Return awards, declined to comment.
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Other big winners at the event included Larry Robbins' Glenview Capital Management, which won fund of the year. Every fund nominated for the awards gained more than 40 percent over 2013, including Appaloosa Management's Palomino and Owl Creek's Owl Creek I. But the Glenview Opportunity fund topped them all by rising a whopping 101.72 percent with a Sharpe of 3.05.
The best fund over 10 years was Izzy Englander's Millennium International (10.73 percent annualized; 2.57 Sharpe). Over five years was Deepak Narula's Metacapital Mortgage Opportunities Master (43.27 percent annualized; 3.31 Sharpe).
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"It's worth noting how many of the nominees are familiar names. If size and scale supposedly work against performance, then the awards further showcase the value and persistence of skill, and that skill in investing is a real and measurable attribute," Josh Friedlander, editor of Absolute Return, said following the event. "Talent doesn't necessarily revert to the mean."
—By CNBC's Lawrence Delevingne. Follow him on Twitter @ldelevingne.