Born in 1930 in Budapest, Hungary, George Soros rose from humble beginnings that saw him leave his native country to attend the London School of Economics before graduating there in 1952. Within four years, he migrated to New York, where he then worked for three investment firms over a 17-year period: F.M. Mayer, Wertheim & Co. and Arnhold & S. Bleichroeder.
Success in those positions led him to create Soros Fund Management in 1973. There, his firm established a reputation for making risky investments that paid off well enough to offer yearly returns of over 30 percent. In two of those years, the investments resulted in a doubling of an investment within a single year.
A Philanthropic Focus
Eventually evolving into the Quantum Fund, the firm allowed Soros to become a billionaire. Beginning in the late 1970’s, he began to focus much of his energies in the world of philanthropy, with South African students living under apartheid receiving scholarships and Iron Curtain residents being provided literature that had been banned.
However, it wasn’t until the 1993 creation of his Open Society Foundation that Soros provided a central focus to his philanthropic interests. The organization’s main focus was to try and build democracies across the world, while also establishing basic human rights, with the amount of money spent over the past two decades estimated at $11 billion.
Controversial Financial Trading
Despite this focus on areas outside of the business community, Soros still displayed a knack for being able to use his knowledge of the world to make lucrative investments. Two that brought him the most recognition were in 1992, when he traded against the British pound, and in 1997, when he traded against the Thai baht. In the latter case, he was blamed by some for starting a financial crisis in Asia.
Soros has also carved out an important role when it comes to funding political issues within the United States. After first taking an active role during the 2004 Presidential campaign, he has since donated millions to Democratic candidates, and his name is often invoked to counter criticism of Republican candidates who receive political funding from fellow billionaires David and Charles Koch.
In addition to political parties, Soros has also donated millions to campaigns related to litigation over contentious issues such as voting rights. These conflicts have taken place as a result of Republican-dominated state legislatures passing laws that seek to stop what they claim is rampant voter fraud. In contrast, Democrats claim that the actions are simply an attempt to block likely Democratic voters from casting their ballots.
The Crisis in Syria
More recently, Soros has focused his attention on the Syrian refugee crisis, urging the European Union to properly fund an agency that would humanely deal with the often-desperate migrants fleeing the chaos. This agency would find a way to connect the migrants with groups and organizations that can help them on a local level.