George Soros to pass control of his empire to son Alexander

Multibillionaire funder of democratic and liberal causes says 37-year-old has ‘earned’ job at helm of $25b empire.

A portrait of George Soros. He is wearing a white open-necked shirt and black jacket. He is listening to someone speaking.
George Soros began his philanthropic career in 1979 [File: Ronald Zak/AP Photo]

Billionaire hedge fund manager turned philanthropist George Soros has decided to hand control of his $25bn philanthropic and financial empire to his son, Alexander.

A spokesperson for Soros, a major backer of liberal and democratic causes, confirmed the plan to the Reuters news agency after it was initially reported by the Wall Street Journal in an interview with Soros published on Sunday.

Soros, 92, said previously he did not want his Open Society Foundations (OSF) to be taken over by one of his five children.

But he told the Journal he had had a change of heart.

“He’s earned it,” the elder Soros said of his 37-year-old son who is known as Alex.

OSF is active in more than 120 countries and channels about $1.5bn annually towards strengthening civil society, advancing human rights and combating corruption, including Global Witness and the International Crisis Group.

Also interviewed by the newspaper, Alex described himself as “more political” than his father and said he planned to continue donating family money to left-leaning political candidates in the United States.

He told the Journal he would also broaden the foundation’s priorities from his father’s “liberal aims” to include voting and abortion rights as well as gender equity.

“As much as I would love to get money out of politics, as long as the other side is doing it, we will have to do it too,” Alex said.

The OSF board elected Alex as its chairman in December and he now directs political activity as president of Soros’s political action committee in the US.

George Soros was born in Hungary in 1930 and survived the Nazi occupation after his family secured false identity papers and helped other Jewish families to do the same. He has described the occupation as his most “formative experience”.

Soros went on to build a successful career as a financier and began his philanthropic work in 1979, giving scholarships to Black South Africans living under apartheid.

He later began working on issues related to freedom of thought and expression by funding academic visits to the West and supporting fledgling independent cultural groups beginning in Hungary.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, he created the Central European University in Budapest as a space to foster critical thinking.

Soros has long been a target of the right-wing and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists in the United States, his native Hungary and elsewhere. OSF closed its Budapest office in 2018 and moved the CEU to Vienna after a “Stop Soros” campaign led by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies