At 92, George Soros is finally stepping down from his $25 billion philanthropic empire and ceding control to his second-youngest son Alexander Soros.
Alexander replaced George as chairman of his philanthropy network Open Society Foundations in December, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal. He is also now the president of his father’s super PAC, Democracy PAC, and the sole Soros on an investment committee for the Soros Fund Management, the investment firm George founded in 1970.
Much of George’s personal wealth has been poured into the Open Society Foundations, which he launched in the 1990s with a mission to uphold democracy. Attracting more than $19 billion in donations since its creation, the organization’s wide-ranging philanthropy has also generated far-right conspiracy theories, often tinged with antisemitism, focused on George’s influence.
Who is Alexander Soros?
Alexander, 37, has long been a philanthropist in his own right. He was the biggest student political donor during the 2010 midterm elections in the U.S., according to data from OpenSecrets. After attending New York University for his undergraduate degree, Alexander made his first major donation in 2011 while completing a Ph.D. in modern European history at Berkeley. He gave $250,000 to Jewish Funds for Justice, a progressive Jewish organization now known as Bend the Arc.
Venturing further into academia, Alexander was also a post-doctoral fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities at Bard College and has held fellowship positions at Budapest’s Central European University and Vienna’s Institute Fur Die Wissenschaften Vom Menschen.
In 2011, Alexander also launched his own eponymous foundation, which has donated to Jewish super PACs and financed the first national statistical study of domestic workers.
“For me, risk is doing something that might be unpopular but, if it works, will have a tremendous impact,” Alexander told Philanthropy News Digest in 2012, adding that he is more focused on fighting corruption than funding endeavors in science or technology.
The heir often meets with a plethora of political figures, as evidenced by his Instagram, which includes recent photographs taken alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, among others.
Alexander began working part-time at OSF in 2004, later joining its board and eventually taking a full-time position in 2015. Outside of his philanthropic endeavors, he helped produce the 2018 films The Kleptocrats and Trial by Fire, in addition to writing an essay for the 2014 book God, Faith and Identity from the Ashes, a collection of stories from descendants of Holocaust survivors.
George Soros’ philanthropy began in the 1970s
George, who is Jewish, left Hungary for the U.K. and eventually the U.S. after living through the Nazi occupation. His philanthropy began in 1979, when he began funding scholarships for Black university students in South Africa during apartheid and supporting dissidents in communist Eastern Europe.
Through his foundation, the older Soros has largely focused on protecting or establishing human rights and democracies in dozens of nations globally. OSF initiatives in the U.S., meanwhile, have included funding against racial bias in the justice system and support for drug decriminalization, humane immigration policies and reproductive rights. Employees from Soros Fund Management have given more than $238 million to Democratic figures and organizations as of 2023, according to OpenSecrets.
“He’s been an extraordinarily influential kind of funder,” Richard Marker, director of executive education programs at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy, told Observer.
In 2017, George transferred $18 billion to OSF, bringing his total contribution to the foundation to more than $32 billion. But the philanthropist’s democracy-building focus has also led to his demonization by conservative figures and conspiracy theorists, who claim George is the mastermind behind a far-left agenda in the U.S. and globally.
“His Jewish background has been used in a horrendous way and has revealed deep-seated antisemitism in the U.S.,” said Marker, referring to “way-out” theories that George is in control of all levels of national government.
Alexander Soros takes a ‘more political’ approach
Like his father, Alexander has largely supported leftist causes, with his foundation donating more than $4.3 million to Democratic candidates and groups since its inception.
But while Alexander has stated that his philanthropic values were largely instilled by his father, the younger Soros told the Wall Street Journal that he is “more political” than George.
He is also more hands-on, previously revealing that he’s turned down board membership invitations due to the time and energy he believe is required. “I wouldn’t want people on my board to be wishy-washy professional board members; I want committed people,” he said in 2012.
As he takes control of his father’s empire, Alexander wants to focus more on U.S. domestic politics, helping the Democratic party appeal to Latino and Black voters. He’s also concerned about Donald Trump’s campaign for the 2024 presidential election, adding that “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.”
In addition to promoting voting rights, Alexander has expressed an interest in fighting for abortion rights, gender equity and free speech on university campuses. But combatting the same conspiracy theories which have circled his father will be more difficult, according to Marker. “When somebody starts out with a bias, essentially there’s no response you can have,” he said. “You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”