What George Soros' life is really like: How the former hedge-fund manager built his $8.3 billion fortune, purchased a sprawling network of New York homes, and became the topic of international conspiracy theories
Taylor Nicole RogersJun 28, 2019, 18:45 IST
Investor George Soros speaks during a program hosted by the New America Foundation September 13, 2006 in Washington, DC.Win McNamee/Getty Images
Former hedge-fund manager George Soros is the 178th-richest person on the planet, with a net worth of approximately $8.3 billion, according to Forbes.
Soros is well known for his philanthropy, having given away more than $32 billion, according to his personal website.
He has purchased a sprawling network of homes in the New York area, including a Southhampton estate and an Upper East Side townhouse.
The billionaire spends big on causes he believes in, including politics.
Conspiracy theorists accuse former hedge-fund manager George Soros of aiding Nazis, conspiring to fill Budapest with refugees, and trying to start a Civil War in the United States. While these theories lack support, little is actually known about how the 88-year-old billionaire passes his days.
Soros built his fortune running what was once the world's largest hedge fund - Quantum Fund. After he passed his hedge fund to his sons in 2011, Soros has largely focused his personal goal of creating a more open society through giving to both his personal foundation and a variety of progressive politicians, according to his personal website.
Keep reading to see how George Soros built his fortune, how he spends it - and why.
Soros was born as Gyorgy Schwartz into a Jewish family in Budapest on August 12, 1930. They later changed their surname to Soros.
Soros and his family stayed in Budapest through the city's Nazi occupation from 1944–1945, using fake IDs to hide their Jewish heritage. "Instead of submitting to our fate, we resisted an evil force that was much stronger than we were — yet we prevailed. Not only did we survive, but we managed to help others,” Soros is quoted as saying on his personal website.
Soros' family fled Hungary for London as the Soviets swept the country in 1947. In London, he worked part-time as a waiter in a night club and as a railroad porter.
He later enrolled in the London School of Economics, graduating in 1954.
Soros moved to New York in 1956, and got a job trading foreign stocks for F. M. Mayer.
Soros founded Quantum Fund in 1973. Quantum would later become the largest hedge fund in the world.
Quantum's success made Soros a billionaire. His net worth is now $8.3 billion, according to Forbes.
“My success in the financial markets has given me a greater degree of independence than most other people,” Soros said.
He retired from managing money for clients in 2011 and passed control of his firm to his sons.
Soros returned $1 billion to his investors and established a family office to manage his family's fortune and the assets of his foundation.
Soros has been married three times, first to Annaliese Witschak from 1960 to 1983 and later to historian Susan Weber from 1983 to 2005. Soros married his current wife, Tamiko Bolton, in 2013.
Soros has five children, although none with Bolton.
The Soros family has several homes, including the Southampton estate where the billionaire hosted his 80th birthday party in 2010.
He's also a longtime Manhattan resident. He once owned 116 East 70th St., a lavish Upper East Side townhouse, with his ex-wife Susan Weber.
He now owns a duplex on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue that has a view of the Central Park reservoir.
Soros also owns a residential compound in Katonah, New York.
A pipe bomb was sent to that home on October 23, 2018.
The bomb was later detonated by authorities in a secluded area. Prominent Democrats including Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, George Soros, former President Barack Obama, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and Former US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper were also sent bombs. No one was hurt.
Soros is often vilified by conservatives for his large contributions to liberal politicians in the United States, Hungary, Russia and elsewhere.
He identifies as an agnostic Jew.
Much of the criticism of Soros by media and political figures is anti-Semitic.
Soros was featured in ads sponsored by the far-right Hungarian government accusing him of colluding to bring Muslim immigrants into Hungary. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban campaigned on a promise to pass a "Stop Soros" bill aimed at silencing his critics, including Soros.
Closer to home, conspiracy theorists have accused Soros of attempting to start a civil war in the US and funding the violence at the 2017 "Unite the Right" protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Soros is also often accused of collaborating with Nazis during the Holocaust. Comedian Roseanne Barr repeated this conspiracy theory on Twitter in 2018 in one of a series of tweets that resulted in the cancellation of her ABC sitcom.
In response, Soros said that such allegations "annoy me greatly." He also said that they are "a total fabrication."
"The bigger the danger, the bigger the threat, the more I feel engaged to confront it," Soros said.
The controversy around Soros isn't limited to conspiracy theories, however. Soros is sometimes called "the man who broke the Bank of England," after he made $1 billion betting against the British pound as it crashed on "Black Wednesday" in 1992.
Soros has said that his opponents fuel him to fight for what he believes in: "I'm painfully aware that they are against the ideas that I stand for."
The billionaire spends big on causes he believes in, including politics. He spent at least $25 million on voter mobilization efforts to help Clinton and other Democrats during the 2016 elections, one of his spokespeople told the Chicago Tribune.
Soros was surprised by Clinton's defeat. "Apparently, I was living in my own bubble," he told The Washington Post.
Clinton lost because "she was too much like a schoolmarm," Soros said. "Talking down to people... instead of listening to them."
Soros also unsuccessfully supported several candidates during the 2018 midterm elections, despite donating $17 million. Several district attorney candidates he supported in California lost to incumbents.
Soros has also referred to President Trump as a "narcissist" who "considers himself all-powerful."
Soros said he and Trump had been friendly "decades" before Trump took office. The pair spent time together at the home of a mutual friend.
"I had no idea he had political ambitions, but I didn't like his behavior as a businessman," Soros is quoted as saying in June 2018 Chicago Tribune article.
Soros hasn't publicly announced who he will support in 2020, but has said who he won't back: New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Soros takes issue with Gillibrand's calls for the resignation of former Sen. Al Franken.
Soros has not always been liberal, however. He supported Republican candidates until the invasion of Iraq under President George W. Bush in 2003 turned him against the party.
Soros doesn't just give money to politicians. He is the founder and chair of Open Society Foundations, a non-profit that disperses grants for education, human rights, criminal justice, and journalism projects.
Soros first became active in philanthropy in 1979, when he funded scholarships for black South Africans during apartheid.
Soros has donated more than $32 billion of his own money to his foundation, according to his personal website.
Soros named the foundation after a book by Karl Popper, titled "Open Society and Its Enemies." In it, Popper writes how societies succeed only when they are democratic and protect human rights.
In Hungary, the attacks on Soros are so vicious that the foundation announced that it would relocate from Budapest to Berlin in May 2019. "The government of Hungary has denigrated and misrepresented our work and repressed civil society for the sake of political gain, using tactics unprecedented in the history of the European Union," Open Society Foundations president Patrick Gaspard said in a statement.
Central European University, a graduate school founded by Soros, also plans to relocate from Budapest to Vienna due to tensions with the Hungarian government.
"It makes it very difficult for me to speak effectively because it can be taken out of context and used against me," Soros said about the conspiracy theories, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Russian President Vladimir Putin pushed Soros' foundation out of Russia in 2017, where it had funded numerous projects, including an anti-torture program.
"He intervenes in things all over the world," Putin said of Soros in a 2018 television interview in Austria. "But the State Department will tell you that it has nothing to do with that, that this is the personal business of Mr. Soros."
Outside of his philanthropic work, Soros has also written 14 books on a variety of topics, including the European Union and the global financial crisis.
At his 80th birthday party, Soros told his 350 guests: "I am a philanthropist. Some maybe think I’m a philanderer. My philosophy is very simple. I like to make a lot of money, so I can give away a lot of money.”