10 Things You Should Know About Billionaire Philanthropist George Soros
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George Soros’s name is synonymous with a slew of adjectives: billionaire, investor, philanthropist and activist. (For many right-wing conspiracy theorists, that laundry list also includes political puppetmaster.) On Wednesday, however, Soros gained one more descriptor: The Financial Times’s 2018 Person of the Year.
Soros’s philanthropy has spanned the globe, beginning with scholarships for black South Africans suffering under apartheid in 1979 and later expanding to the United States, Africa, Asia and Latin America, focusing on promoting accountable and transparent democracy. The famed investor, whose net worth is pegged at $8.3 billion, has continued in his efforts for decades -- despite an ever-growing chorus of naysayers and anti-semitic conspiracy theories.
“I’m blamed for everything, including being the Antichrist,” Soros told The Financial Times. “I wish I didn’t have so many enemies, but I take it as an indication that I must be doing something right.”
On the heels of his Person of the Year accolade, here are 10 key facts about Soros.
1. As a teenager in the mid-1940s, Soros survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary.
More than 500,000 Hungarian Jews were killed during the 1944-1945 occupation, but Soros and his family survived by securing false identity papers, and helped others conceal their identities as well.
2. He worked part-time as a railway porter and a nightclub waiter to fund his studies.
Soros left Budapest in 1947 to attend the London School of Economics, but he had to pick up part-time jobs to pay for tuition. While studying at the university, Soros connected with the teachings of philosopher Karl Popper, author of Open Society and Its Enemies.
3. Soros launched his own hedge fund in the early 1970s.
Called Soros Fund Management (later the Quantum Fund), it was the precursor to his fortune and reportedly boasted average annual returns of more than 30 percent per year -- not to mention two occasions where it reported gains over 100 percent.
4. He created the Central European University in Budapest.
Soros founded the university in 1991, aiming to encourage critical thinking after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In December 2018, however, the institution was reportedly “forced out” of the country by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
5. Karl Popper’s teachings inspired Soros’s foundation.
Popper believed that societies can only be successful when they prioritize democratic governance, respect for individual rights and freedom of expression, and in 1993, Soros named his foundation -- and outlined its mission -- with those ideals in mind.
6. He once earned $1 billion in a single day.
Soros bet $10 billion against the British pound in September 1992, which earned him $1 billion in profits within 24 hours -- and almost $2 billion total. The move earned him the nickname “the man who broke the Bank of England.”
7. He’s vilified as a sort of “bogeyman” by conspiracy theorists and President Trump alike.
Many conspiracy theorists and white nationalists perceive Soros as a “master manipulator” of global politics, and President Trump himself has alluded to similar ideas, even refusing to rule out that Soros funded the migrant caravan in Mexico. (There is no evidence to support this.)
8. Before the 2016 presidential election, Soros bet that Donald Trump’s victory would negatively affect the markets.
9. He’s given away more than $32 billion to fund the Open Society Foundations’ global initiatives.
Since 1984, Soros has directed that his foundation support people and organizations around the world fighting for accountable government, equality, freedom of speech and more. In 2017, Soros donated $18 billion of his personal fortune to fund his foundations’ future projects.
10. In October 2018, a pipe bomb was delivered to Soros’s New York home.
A number of prominent Democrats -- including former Secretary of Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and more -- received similar pipe bombs over the span of a few days. No one was hurt, and the device found at Soros’s residence was “proactively detonated” by bomb squad technicians.