(WSJ) George Soros, who built one of the world’s largest fortunes through a famous series of trades, has turned over nearly $18 billion to Open Society Foundations, according to foundation officials, a move that transforms both the philanthropy he founded and the investment firm supplying its wealth.
Now holding the bulk of Mr. Soros’s fortune, Open Society has vaulted to the top ranks of philanthropic organizations, appearing to become the second largest in the U.S. by assets after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, based on 2014 figures from the National Philanthropic Trust.
Soros Fund Management LLC’s 87-year-old founder now shares influence over the firm’s strategy with an investment committee of Open Society. Mr. Soros set up the committee and is its chairman, but it is meant to survive him, people familiar with it said.
A new chief investment officer at the Soros firm is less a trader than an allocator of capital to various internal and external asset managers. Unlike past investment chiefs, the official, Dawn Fitzpatrick, doesn’t report to Mr. Soros or others at his firm but to the philanthropy’s investment committee.
Mr. Soros doesn’t plan to trade the billions that now belong to Open Society, according to the people familiar with the situation. Mr. Soros was trading his own money, held separately within the Soros firm, as recently as last year, when he bet—wrongly, it turned out—that stocks would slump after Donald Trump was elected president.
“It’s an ongoing process of migration from a hedge fund toward a pool of capital deployed to support a foundation over the long term,” said Bill Ford, a committee member and the chief executive of General Atlantic LLC, a firm that invests in growth-stage companies.
Though the $26 billion Soros Fund Management was a pioneering hedge fund, it returned outside investors’ money several years ago and became a family office—a type of structure, largely free of regulation, that is increasingly popular with wealthy clans.
Mr. Soros began his giving in 1979 and stepped it up to fight communism across Eastern Europe. In 1984, he set up a foundation in Hungary, the country of his birth, that distributed photocopiers to universities and libraries to break the government’s hold on information.
Having lived under both communism and a Nazi occupation in Hungary, Mr. Soros hoped to foster “open societies” in places where authoritarian governments held power. He named his foundation after a book by the philosopher Karl Popper, one of his teachers, that defended liberal democracies.
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