In The News: George Soros

HE'S not short of a few quid, that George Soros, writes Andrew Buncombe. Even by the standards of the world of high finance, he is considered an exception. He makes a million here, loses a million there. It doesn't really matter; he's always in the black.

And black is certainly an apt colour with which to link Mr Soros.

One of his most famous financial coups - and certainly the one which lodged the speculator in the wider public consciousness - occurred in September 1992, when he bet against Sterling. The then Tory Chancellor Norman Lamont scored one of the financial own goals of the century and Britain lost billions before the Bank of England finally conceeded that it had to devalue the pound. They called it Black Wednesday, but it wasn't a bad day for Soros; he made pounds 600m.

In 1993 he was reckoned to be the biggest earner on Wall Street and analysts estimated he makes around pounds 2,500 a minute.

So when the Kremlin fell into financial difficulties last summer and needed a friendly financier to help them out with a few hundred million pounds or so, Soros was the perfect man.

And all this wealth comes from just betting on the financial markets, guessing which currencies are going to boom and which are going to bust. When to buy, and when to sell. When to invest and when to get out. He makes Gordon Gekko look like and amateur

By general consensus he has set the tone for a new generation of large, professional investors, who run so-called hedge funds for wealthy clients. It is said markets often hang on his prediciations on the fortunes of gold,. silver and shares. An interview he once gave on Germany's fortunes caused the Mark to fall.

By his own admission, Soros is a gambler, albeit, a very good one. "It just so happens that I play the game better and bigger than most people," he once said, sitting in the 33rd floor of his New York offices.

But it hasn't always been midtown Manhattan for Mr Soros. He was born in Hungary, and fled as a teenager when the Nazi's invaded. Budapest was no place for Jewish family. He arrived in Britain at the end of the war, penniless and desparate to build himself a future. He studied at the LSE before moving to New York.

There he learnt the trade of finance and investment and by 1969 Soros, then agd 39, was in a position to start his now famous Quantum offshore fund. He told potential investors the purpose of the fund was to "enable sophisticated investors to participate in an internationally diversified investment portfolio". By 1972 the fund - registered in the Dutch Antilles but run from New York by Soros Fund Management - was worth pounds 20m. These days it's worth about pounds 12billion and Soros ranks as America's 27th richest person.

He is committed to issues such as Bosnia, the arts, minority rights and democracy. He has foundations in Russia and Eastern Europe which distribute around $300m dollars a year, the most he was allowed to donate under US tax law.

Soros could be described as a philosopher, a theorist, a philanthropist and a financial genuis, But above all, he's a good man to tap up if you're ever short.

MAN WHO BROKE THE BANK

George Soros, worth an estimated pounds 2,500m and one of the world's 150 richest people, is most famously known as the Man who broke the Bank of England. The title came from his actions in September 1992, when he bet against the fortunes of sterling as the chancellor, Norman Lamont, tried to prop up the pound. Britain lost billions as Mr Lamont squandered its gold reserves before the Bank of England got out the white flag and devalued the currency. The event, which was to cost Mr Lamont his job, was known as Black Wednesday, but it was a marvellous day for Mr Soros, who made more than pounds 600m by speculating against sterling.

AND ALSO LOST MILLIONS

Often overlooked by those chronicling the legendary exploits of Mr Soros is day he lost twice as much as his Black Wednesday winnings, when the worldwide markets tumbled in October 1997. Mr Soros's Quantum Fund alone lost pounds 600m, while five other Soros funds, managed by his right-hand man, Stanley Druckenmiller, lost a similar amount. But, perhaps surprisingly, this was not the first time had lost millions. In 1987 he lost pounds 450m overnight after wrongly predicting there would be a crash in Tokyo and selling up. He shrugged the loss off, taking his wife to a dinner party.

QUANTUM LEAPS AND BOUNDS

Mr Soros's most famous fund is the Quantum Fund, which he launched in 1969 with pounds 4m. It operates by charging clients to invest their money in currency, commodity and interest-rate markets as well as securities and equities. Anyone who invested pounds 7,000 in 1969 and reinvested their dividends will be pleased to learn that their money is now worth pounds 10m.

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