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Soros, George

Soros, George sôr´ōs [key], 1930–, American stock trader and philanthropist, b. Budapest, Hungary, as George Schwartz. He studied under Sir Karl Popper at the London School of Economics (grad. 1952). He emigrated from Hungary to Great Britain (1947) and then to the United States (1956). Soros mostly worked as a financial analyst, and in 1969 he founded the first of his offshore hedge funds. His Quantum funds grew in value tremendously, partly through speculation in foreign currency. He earned (1992) $1 billion on the fall of the British pound and notoriety as the man who broke the Bank of England. In the late 1990s, financial analysts and government officials charged that this speculation had helped destabilize Asian and Latin American national economies. His reputation for financial acumen was tarnished somewhat, however, when the value of the funds fell 20% in early 2000.

As president of the Soros Management Fund, he has used his wealth to create a network of wealthy foundations, many of which were founded to aid former Communist countries in creating the kind of anti-Marxist open society advocated by Popper; by the late 2010s his Open Society Foundation also focused on civil and migrant rights and other issues in Western Europe. Nationalist governments in power in Russia, Hungary and other Eastern European nations, and Turkey increasingly denounced Soros's prodemocracy and human-rights efforts as subversive. Other Soros foundations fund health initiatives and aid immigrants in the United States. He also established (1991) the Central European Univ. in Budapest; it was forced in 2019 to move its main campus to Vienna because of government restrictions. In the United States, he has funded political campaigns, most notably by organizations opposed to President George W. Bush, and he continues to fund Democratic candidates and progressive groups. Soros has written several books, including Opening the Soviet System (1990; rev. ed. 1991), The Alchemy of Finance (1994), The Crisis of Global Capitalism (1998), Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism (2000), and The Bubble of American Supremacy (2003).

See his autobiography Soros on Soros (with B. Wien and K. Koenen, 1995); biographies by R. Slater (1995) and M. T. Kaufman (2002).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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