Paul Soros: Shipping magnate and philanthropist

 

Paul Soros was a Hungarian-born shipping innovator and magnate, philanthropist and forward-thinking entrepreneur. He was, according to his younger brother, the billionaire George Soros, "a big-picture man". Both hugely successful brothers had learned from their father "to go against the rules when they are wrong".

Arriving in the United States in 1948 with $17 and a Leica camera to his name, Paul went on to establish in 1956 a multi-million pound business, Soros Associates, designing and engineering ports and offshore terminals to deal with the processing of, usually mined, bulk raw materials, such as coal, bauxite and iron ore. Through his innovations, international trade and production patterns shifted and his company dominated the industry with projects in over 90 countries. His son Peter said, "His genius was seeing what everyone was seeing and finding new ways to solve interesting problems."

In 1989, with a number of awards, patents in materials handling and off-shore technology, and having authored many technical papers, Soros sold the company. He reinvested some of his vast fortune with his brother into industrial and mining ventures.

In 1997, in gratitude for the life the US had given them, Soros and his wife Daisy, also a Hungarian émigré, established Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships, a foundation to provide grants to struggling new immigrants or their children for graduate study. To date, the foundation's $75 million endowment fund has helped more than 400 students. Soros later said, "My story is riches to rags to riches again. I was lucky to survive. The rest was relatively easy."

Paul Schwartz was born into a prosperous Jewish family in Budapest, Hungary in 1926. His father, Tividar, was a lawyer and Esperantist, a promoter of the artificial language designed to bridge the differences between cultures and languages; he had been a prisoner of war during and after the First World War until he escaped from Russia and rejoined his family in Budapest in 1921; his mother, Elizabeth, had helped run her family's thriving silk business.

The family enjoyed a privileged upbringing with summers spent on an island on the River Danube, and Paul became an accomplished and talented skier and tennis player. In 1936 his father changed the family name to Soros, meaning "will soar" in Esperanto, in response to the growing anti-Semitism emanating from Nazi Germany. Life continued, however, relatively normally until the Nazi occupation of Budapest in March 1944. Tividar then scattered his family to safe houses around the city with fake identity papers denoting them as Christians.

The Russians arrived in February 1945, and Paul was captured and accused of being a fugitive SS officer. Along with thousands of other Hungarian men he was force-marched east to Russia. Paul later wrote, "I knew that, after the bridge, there were no more villages, just open country. With snow on the ground there was no way to get away or hide." So as the prisoners and their Russian guards squeezed across the bridge, he recalled, "I simply made a run for it." He escaped the guards' notice and hid in a burned-out farmhouse and watched the column pass for about an hour before walking back to Budapest.

He began to study engineering at the University of Budapest and was picked for the 1948 Winter Olympic ski team. He was carrying a leg injury but hid this. En route to Switzerland via Austria, he defected, eventually arriving in the US. George had fled earlier, spending time in London and at the London School of Economics before moving across the Atlantic. They were reunited in 1956.

Paul found work as a tennis pro following a serious skiing injury which cost him a kidney, before winning a scholarship to St Lawrence University in northern New York State; he later enrolled at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. In exchange for his studies, he coached the college ski team.

Upon graduation, Soros had a number of engineering sales jobs before joining Hewitt Robins International, a maker of conveyor belting and industrial hose, as a sales engineer in the export department. It was while on a trip to South America that Soros had his "eureka" moment and, remembering his boating days on the Danube, he designed a low-cost iron-ore loading system for a port in Chile. His systems of floating piers saved time and money by allowing the ever-larger cargo ships to be loaded while moored to buoys rather than having to bring them into purpose-built ports, which in any case would need building. The company went global and he eventually sold it to an Italian state-owned company.

Thereafter Soros and his wife, whom he had married in 1951, became philanthropists while also running an investment company and sitting on the board of his brother George's company, Quantum Industrial Holdings. Soros sponsored many events and became a patron of the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera, and a trustee and benefactor of Polytechnic University, which he praised for "giving the sons of janitors who possess a work ethic a chance to move into the middle class". He later served as a Special UN Ambassador to Morocco and Jordan.

Viewed as a gentleman, Soros continued his sporting pursuits well into his eighties despite a number of serious injuries, including losing an eye in a golfing accident. In his memoir, which he entitled American (Con)quest, he wrote that after he had reached 65 his taxable income exceeded $100 million a year. His lifestyle, however, was not lavish. "I find conspicuous consumption in bad taste and something of an insult to people who have to work hard to make ends meet," he wrote. Soros is survived by his wife, Daisy and two sons; a daughter died in a car accident.

Paul Schwartz (Paul Soros), entrepreneur and philanthropist: born Budapest 1926; married Daisy 1951 (two sons, and one daughter deceased); died New York 15 June 2013.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
News
i100
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little