George Soros: Investor, Philanthropist and Activist

George Soros, the Hungarian-American billionaire whose political activities have brought him close to the pinnacles of global political power, remains an enigmatic figure. Who is Soros? And what does he stand for?

Born to a Jewish family in Budapest in 1930, Soros survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary before emigrating with his family to the United Kingdom in 1947. In London, Soros attended the London School of Economics – then and still one of the preeminent educational institutions for aspiring financiers. Initially beginning his career in the City of London, Europe’s top financial district, Soros demonstrated an innate talent for investing and finance. His business success brought him to America in 1956, where he worked as a stock trader on the staff of an investment bank.

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Although first longing to return to Europe, Soros gradually became enmeshed in New York. He found considerable success on Wall Street while becoming acquainted with some literary and cultural figures who advocated for significant changes in American society and government policies, both at home and abroad. In 1961, Soros became an American citizen.

By the late 1960s, Soros had struck out on his own as a fund manager and his funds, which underwent a series of name changes, began to grow dramatically. The proceeds from these business operations made Soros one of the world’s wealthiest men. (Years later, in 1992, Soros became known as the “man who broke the Bank of England.” After building up massive positions against the British pound, a dramatic policy shift made by the British government netted him an estimated $1 billion profit in a matter of minutes.)

In addition to his business prowess, Soros took a keen interest in political issues. Having amassed a fortune, George Soros became interested in philanthropy by the late 1970s. In 1984, Soros debuted the Open Society Foundation in Hungary — an organization that advocates for robust democracy, civil rights, and tolerant policies. Since that time, the OSF has expanded to be active in 70 countries around the globe. Read more about George at The New York Times.

Over the four decades that have followed, Soros has been a keen backer of a variety of political and social causes. In the United States, his funds have flowed to Democratic candidates, including a dramatic investment in the ultimately unsuccessful “America Coming Together,” a group that targeted President George W. Bush in the 2004 elections.

In addition to his campaign expenditures, Soros has funded important advocacy and organizing efforts to assist low and moderate-income families, expand access to affordable health care, defend civil and voting rights, end the death penalty, decriminalize some drugs, ensure women are able to access comprehensive health care including safe and legal abortion, and protect the environment.

A brilliant businessman and a passionate philanthropist on behalf of important causes, Soros has made a dramatic mark on American society. Learn more about his profile at Forbes.com.