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Leadership Style at Soros Fund Management

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Leadership Style at Soros Fund Management
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Netra Shetty
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Leadership Style at Soros Fund Management - May 10th, 2011

Soros Fund Management LLC, founded by George Soros in 1969, is a privately held corporation providing financial services and investment strategies for various funds including some controversial hedge funds such as the Quantum Group of Funds. The company's investment strategies have been based on analysis of real or perceived macroeconomic trends in various countries. As of 9/30/10, the firm reportedly managed $6,692 million in US-listed equities. [1] Soros's companies have been accused of applying pressure on currencies to directly benefit their speculative strategies. Soros responds to these charges by saying that his funds merely take advantage of known weaknesses in the international financial system.

All of this makes us think of George Soros, who apparently believes his money makes him a player on the world's stage — someone to whom other people should listen and respect. Worse yet, these "other" people are beguiled into actually believing this nonsense. The thinking goes something like this. "All my life I have directed all my energies into making as much money as possible. Now, this man makes more in one day than I make in twenty years. Therefore, he must be a genius." But, if a baseball player hit 500 home runs, would that make him anything other than a home run hitter? If a tap dancer knocks your socks off and sounds like a combination of Fred Astaire and Bojangles would you say he is anything more than a great tap dancer? Would you go to him to have your tonsils taken out or for advice as to which mutual fund to buy?

George Soros came under our microscope some time back when he and some other billionaires took out advertisements in the newspapers opposing the abolition, or even the lowering of, the Federal Estate Tax. We, on the other hand, believed that President Regan was on the right track when he expressed the thought that the estate tax was the unfairest of the panoply of taxes that we pay. When you make the money, you are taxed up to fifty per cent. Then if the government is lucky enough to have you die, they tax your estate, which is whatever you have left after a lifetime of paying income tax, once again up to fifty per cent. If a small businessman or farmer worked hard his entire life, paid his taxes in the hope of passing something to his children, perhaps even to keep the business or farm running when he is gone, at his death the government will swoop down to grab a substantial portion.

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Millionaires have legions of lawyers and armies of accountants who devise ways to avoid these taxes, unlike the rest of us ordinary people. Mr. Soros and his colleagues who urge that estate taxes be maintained should first reveal what they have done to minimize their estate taxes. Our guess is that they have spent more on tax lawyers and accountants than most of the rest of us could possibly leave as our entire estate. Soros reminds us of the guy who passes the board and gets into a private club or cooperative apartment house, and then tries to make it difficult for the next guy. One thing we do know for sure, in the advertisement that Soros and friends ran in the press, basically urging that everyone should be liable for paying taxes, mention was made of an organization that was formed by them to support their aims. The office of this organization was in Boston or Philadelphia (coming from New York the geographic lines are blurred). We called and told them, to their eager delight, that we wanted to make a contribution. But we wanted to make sure it was tax deductible. We were assured it was. We were reminded of the old Southern preacher who said, "Don't do like I do. Do like I say do".

There is also the moral problem that we have with the way enormously rich people make their money. Other than wealth created by virtue of an invention, such as Edison and electricity, the acquisition of wealth is not a guiltless process, nor certainly is it a profitless and without harm transfer of monies. Notwithstanding Soros' professed interest in helping people via his charities, there is the fact that speculation in foreign currencies a la Soros, can beget economic havoc in countries. In 1992, Soros earned one billion dollars in a one day by betting that the British pound would fall. Although Soros denies it, there are some that accuse him of causing the 1997 Asian economic crisis by his betting against the Thai baht. When these sorts of things occur it ultimately filters down to the humblest of a country's citizens. It is said that when a butterfly flutters its wings on a plain in Africa, it begets a hurricane in Louisiana. Soros is no butterfly!

If these were our only thoughts about Soros we would happily consign him to our private hell peopled by hypocrites, windbags, parasites and blowhards such as some used car salesmen, critics, lawyers, landlords, theatrical agents and real estate brokers, and simply forget all about him. No, we believe he is a more destructive person — a self-hating Jew whose money gives him a podium to spout his nonsense.

We live in a world awash with anti-Semitism, from bombings of synagogues in Istanbul to the bombing of a Jewish school in a Paris suburb to the French ambassador making scatological remarks about Israel at a London dinner party, to a German politician and Army leader spewing hatred.

A recent study demonstrated that Europeans believe that Israel is the greatest threat to world peace. Near sixty percent of people surveyed from fifteen E.U. countries said that they consider Israel a threat. Only fifty-three per cent said that they consider Iran and North Korea to be a threat.

Self-hating Jew Soros openly says that he is not supportive of Israel. His reference to his Jewishness and perhaps to the fact that he does not donate to Jewish organizations: "It did not express itself in a sense of tribal loyalty that would have led [Soros] to support Israel." Somebody should interrupt him from counting his money long enough to explain to him that Israel is a nation not a "tribe."

Another gem from Soros. "There are some people in the Bush administration who have the same mentality as Arafat or Sharon." Thank goodness for those who do think like Sharon! But to equate our administration's leaders with a thug and murderer is beyond the pale. He ought to dwell on the fact that if he were a citizen of any one of the dictatorships that now threaten Israel and he equated one of its leadership with a common criminal he probably would soon find himself headless.

The world, with all its technological improvement has not changed in its psyche. Anti-Semitism still walks much of the land, a seething venom under a facade of racial acceptance and equality. Three things are certain: death, taxes and anti-Semitism.

The ovens, grown cold over the last sixty years are there, waiting only for a spark to be fired up. The only thing in this regard that is different now from then, is that now there is a State that Jews can turn to, that righteous countries can morally and practically support, a State that even if it were abandoned by the whole world could defend itself and be a haven for all Jews.
There are scores of people the world over, who have made it in life, but care very little about their less privileged compatriots. This is where the likes of George Soros, an American businessman differ. Soros who was last weekend in Freetown, became wealthy through the hard way, but finds pleasure sharing his hard earned wealth with his less privileged fellow human being across the globe. He is Founder of the Open Society Institute that has helped transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands across the world.

His interest is not just limited to helping the poor and needy, but goes far beyond what many wealthy people would shy away from; Making his personal opinions known on matters that have the potential of influencing the lives of millions in a negative way.

He displayed this distinct attribute in America’s 2004 Elections, when he vigorously campaigned against George W. Bush, President of the USA, when it became apparent to him that Bush’s leadership style was wrong.

George Soros, despite his huge wealth, has keen interest in writing, and at the moment, has eight books to his credit. He is a prolific writer and it is reported that his love for writing on humanitarian matters fueled his quest for financial self-sufficiency. Reports say Soros believes one can only express one’s true, heartfelt opinions when one is financially independent.

Recent research results have shown that the likes of George Soros are difficult to come by, especially when one take a closer look at the level of greed that has characterized every facet of life in contemporary world today.

Here in Sierra Leone, there are a handful of men and women of repute who have actually made it in life and have shown interest in ameliorating the plights of their compatriots and also displayed similar qualities as those attributed to the no nonsense George Soros.

One such individual is Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, the Proprietress of the popular Awareness Times independent newspaper, who though a woman and of tender age, has shown so much love for her native land that she is prepared to go the extra mile in making her own contribution to Sierra Leone’s development.

Apart from being a trained and qualified Medical Doctor, she also has vast knowledge in the use of internet and computers and in addition to that, has keen interest in writing very critical pieces; sometimes treading on powerful toes. But one thing I can assure her readers is that just like Soros, she is writing out of conviction and not out of opportunism. And though not anywhere near the financial status of Soros, she is financially independent enough to say her mind.

There is a strong belief that she is the most courageous, focused, sharp and smart woman Sierra Leone as a nation can boast of at the moment. She is the only Sierra Leonean Lady that can stand at the rough edges of the pens of fierce journalists like Philip Neville, Olu Richie Gordon, Paul Kamara etc, and yet remain focused.

She has been known to take stances that many journalists shy away from. Just remember how she championed the matter of the late Immigration boss, Madam Gloria Newman Smart, whose death cannot be dissociated with the combined pressure heaped on her by the police and the press over what later came out to be a real witch-hunt.

Sylvia Blyden is not an opportunist. She has made money, no doubt, but that is courtesy of her hard sweat and nothing else. She works round the clock and has little or no time for herself. I worked very closely with her for one year. I know what I am saying. Sylvia is a hard worker. That notwithstanding, she has the willingness to share her hard earned cash with the less privileged and organizations that are in need of support, just like George Soros does.

She has rendered financial assistance to many, with the latest being her comrades in the medical field, with the whopping sum of $1000 to help organize the 48th annual conference of West African surgeons.

During the last electioneering period, the two of us carried different political views and supported different candidates for the presidency, but as decency and political tolerance would have it, we remained friends right through.

Her current stance is geared towards putting the All People’s Congress (APC) government of President Ernest Bai Koroma on its toes so as to fulfill its pledges to the nation especially to the unemployed youths.

Soros fled Hungary in 1947 for England, where he graduated from the London School of Economics in 1952 and then obtained an entry-level position with an investment bank in London. In 1956, he immigrated to the United States and held analyst and investment management positions at the New York firms of F.M. Mayer (1956-59), Wertheim & Co. (1959-63) and Arnhold & S. Bleichroeder (1963-73).

Soros went off on his own in 1973, founding the hedge fund company of Soros Fund Management, which eventually evolved into the well-known and respected Quantum Fund. For almost two decades, he ran this aggressive and successful hedge fund, reportedly racking up returns in excess of 30% per year and, on two occasions, posting annual returns of more than 100%. (For related reading, see Introduction To Hedge Funds - Part 1 and Part 2.)

In the late 1980s, he gave up the day-to-day management of the Quantum Fund and, as one of the wealthiest people in the world, became a substantial philanthropist, donating huge sums worldwide through his Open Society Foundation.

In recent years, political activism has also become important to Soros. He has written and lectured extensively on the role of the U.S. in world affairs as well as issues dealing with, among others, human rights, political freedom and education.

When Soros was offered an honorary degree from Oxford University and was asked how he wanted to be described, he is quoted as saying: "I would like to be called a financial, philanthropic and philosophical speculator." This surely sums up the life of George Soros, particularly if the adjectival phrase "very successful" is added to the description.

Investment Style
George Soros was a master at translating broad-brush economic trends into highly leveraged, killer plays in bonds and currencies. As an investor, Soros was a short-term speculator, making huge bets on the directions of financial markets. He believed that financial markets can best be described as chaotic. The prices of securities and currencies depend on human beings, or the traders - both professional and non-professional - who buy and sell these assets. These persons often act out based on emotion, rather than logical considerations. (For more insight, see Understanding Investor Behavior.)

He also believed that market participants influenced one another and moved in herds. He said that most of the time he moved with the herd, but always watched for an opportunity to get out in front and "make a killing." How could he tell when the time was right? Soros has said that he would have an instinctive physical reaction about when to buy and sell, making is strategy a difficult model to emulate.

When he fully retired in 2000, he had spent almost 20 years speculating with billions of other people's money, making him - and them - very wealthy through his highly successful Quantum Fund. He made some mistakes along the way, but his net results made him one of the world's wealthiest investors in history.

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