American investor George Soros passed control of his multi-billion dollar foundation to his 37-year-old son, Alexander Soros, last month. The second youngest of the billionaire’s five children and a self-described center-left thinker, Alexander Soros is regarded as “more political” than his father. He has now slashed 40 percent of the foundation’s workforce, as per a report in Fortune. In an email to staff, the Soros family foundation said it would undergo “significant changes” to its operational structure, resulting in layoffs.
The Open Society Foundations, established in 1979, have operations in more than thirty countries and use grant-giving, research, impact investing, and strategic litigation to promote liberal democratic values. These include free speech, criminal justice reform, minority and refugee rights, and backing liberal politicians. But Soros’ bold philanthropy has made him a bogeyman of the right, with conspiracy theories about his funding increasing in recent years as he has backed anti-Trump protests and other liberal causes and candidates.
Since his earliest philanthropic work, which included scholarships to Black South African students in apartheid and funding dissident movements behind the Iron Curtain, Soros has sought to create more accountable, transparent, and democratic societies. In the US, his efforts have ranged from backing liberal DAs to funding same-sex marriage initiatives and opposing the war on drugs.
However, his biggest challenges have come in his native Hungary, where authoritarian prime minister Viktor Orban has ruled with an iron fist for decades and clamped down on civic space and minorities. OSF has pumped hundreds of millions into the country since 1998, but Orban elbowed them out of town and forced them to move their main regional office to Berlin.
Alexander Soros has promised to continue down the path his father charted, including fighting back against the Trump administration and promoting free speech, civil rights, and immigration reform. He has also vowed to counteract the rising tide of populism in the US, arguing that market fundamentalism is now as dangerous as communism and fascism.
Despite these plans, there are concerns that the new leadership at the Foundations will take a more conservative approach to their work. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week, Alexander Soros called for a greater focus on local issues and efforts to support democratic institutions. He expressed concern that the Foundations are slipping into “conservative moderation.” However, he emphasized that he would consider the family’s broader financial interests when deciding where to put its money. So far, the Foundations have shifted about $400 million to organizations in the US alone this year. The move hands a considerable amount of power to the younger Soros, who is set to oversee the world’s most significant global social investment fund. In 2021, he contributed $1 million to support the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s campaign, whom President Donald Trump accused of funding the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.