George Soros is a naturalized American of Hungarian descent who has made a name for himself through a variety of endeavors, including business, investing, philanthropy, and writing. These days, he’s as well known for being chairman of Soros Fund Management and he is for his political bent. His influence is such that he’s a lightning rod for controversy almost every time he says or does anything.
George Soros is a native of Hungary, where he spent the first 17 years of life, most of which were uncomfortable because his family was Jewish, although nonobservant. In fact, the family took the name Soros (it was originally Schwartz) as a way to obscure their Jewish roots. His family survived the 1944 Nazi invasion and occupation of Hungary by signing documents registering themselves as Christians. In fact, he helped his father create thousands of such documents for people who otherwise would have been sent to death camps such as Auschwitz.
In 1947, George fled Hungary for England, penniless and jobless, where he enrolled at the London School of Economics.
The England Years – His Ideology Is Formed
In London, George Soros worked two jobs while in school, where he studied under Karl Popper, an acclaimed 20th-century philosopher of science. Soros would be heavily influenced by Popper’s book, The Open Society and Its Enemies, from which Soros took lessons that would shape the rest of his life. In fact, the two main lessons that struck a chord were the following: no single ideology can lay claim to the truth and societies thrive only when operating transparently and sustaining the rights of the individual.
After getting his BS in philosophy in 1951, Soros stayed three more years to get his doctorate, also in philosophy. However, work didn’t come easily afterward, and he did what he had to do to make ends meet. Finally, after months of trying, he secured an entry-level position at a merchant bank called Singer & Friedlander. It didn’t take young George long to make his mark, and he was promoted to another department before being recommended for a job at a brokerage house called F.M. Mayer.
Soros agreed and was soon on his way to America, as F.M. Mayer was on Wall Street.
The Soros Theory That Begot a Fortune
George Soros moved to, but never intended to stay in, New York. His mind was always on returning to England to continue studying philosophy, so he worked for various investment firms, making and saving as much money as he could.
It was during this time that Soros developed a theory of philosophy that he later realized could be applied to other industries, including banking and investing. Called reflexivity, the theory states that self-awareness is inherent in any situation. In the financial industry, it’s applied as any type of valuation created in any market must be reflected in the actions of those participating in said market. Put another way, a prediction can change how participants in the market behave, thus making a true statement false (or vice-versa). Once Soros saw the potential of this theory in investing, he decided to put it to the test.
By 1966, having already decided against going back to London for the time being, George had worked his way up to vice president of New York investment bank Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder. While there, he started managing an investment fund called First Eagle, which made enough money to open a second fund, Double Eagle. It was this latter fund that would be renamed the Soros Fund in 1973 and eventually the Quantum Fund, so named for quantum mechanics in honor of physicist Werner Heisenberg. However, the returns were anything but minute during its first decade: it had grown by over 3,300% by 1980!
The fund hit a snag in 1981, with losses large enough to cause Soros to take a sabbatical. Once he returned, though, Quantum’s gains started skyrocketing again and Soros became one of the top money managers in the world. He even saw fit to get his book The Alchemy of Finance published, thereby allowing his investing strategies to be shared with the world.
The fund, with Soros at the helm, has continued its massive success, and maintains it even today, with only a few hiccups.
George Soros has not been without his controversies. He’s not afraid to give his opinion on any subject and even his philanthropy has drawn scrutiny, most notably the Open Society Foundations he started in 1984. The foundations fund causes in education, health, media, and business development as well as contribute money to fighting diseases, establishing after-school programs, and aiding disaster-stricken regions across the world.
However, due to his liberal feelings on open borders and open immigration, his largesse is often overlooked. Also contributing to this are his thoughts on America’s war on drugs and on the rise of worldwide anti-Semitism, which he believes is due to continued joint global policies by Israel and the U.S. That he profited on the 1992 British currency crisis and is often accused of manipulating markets and shaping public policy to achieve his goals only exacerbates the fuss.
A Complex Figure Still Going Strong
George Soros is a complex man who’s led a complex life. Though a man of prodigious talents and generosity, he still cuts a swath of controversy regardless of what he does or says. Even now, in his mid-80s, Soros continues expanding the impact he has already made on the world.