Business Personality / Philanthropist
Born: 12 August 1930
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Best known as: Quantum Fund billionaire and “open society” advocate
George Soros uses the wealth he amassed as a financier to support liberal U.S. political candidates and pro-democracy movements worldwide. As a teenage Hungarian immigrant at the London School of Economics, he studied finance and the “open society” theories of philosopher Karl Popper, an advocate of civil and political liberties. After brokerage work in London and New York, he started in 1969 what became the Quantum Fund, one of the world’s first hedge funds. It eventually paid 4,000-fold on initial investments and made Soros a billionaire. His knack for seeing trends and acting on them with gutsy marketplace gambits sometimes caused controversy. He was called “the man who broke the Bank of England” for the role his currency trades played in the 1992 “Black Wednesday” crash of the British pound; in 2002 he was convicted of insider trading in France. He turned philanthropist in the 1970s through what is now an international network of foundations under the umbrella of the Open Society Institute. His first foray into U.S. presidential politics came in 2004, when he threw millions of personal dollars behind efforts to unseat George W. Bush. In 2007 he declared support for candidate Barack Obama.
His ethnically Jewish parents changed their family’s name from Schwartz to Soros as one of their assimilation strategies to avoid persecution by the forces of Adolf Hitler in Hungary. He says his lifelong attraction to civil freedoms is due in part to his first-hand view of Nazi, and, later, Communist oppression there… Soros has been married and divorced twice: to Annaliese Witchak (1959-1978) and to Susan Weber (1983-2004). His five children are Robert (born 1963), Andrea (1965), Jonathan (1970), Alexander (1985) and Gregory (1989).