The Hungarian-born investment genius and philanthropist George Soros has shied away from publicity for most of his life, but the self-styled "financial and philosophical speculator" fairly vaulted into the public eye not long ago. Soros, age sixty-two, has been a figure of note on Wall Street for many years; his canny sense of financial-market turns led Institutional Investor magazine in 1981 to anoint him "the world's greatest money manager," a title he arguably retains today. He has also been exerting a significant and salutary influence in Eastern Europe since the mid-1980s, when he started distributing scholarships and photocopiers to dissident intellectuals in Hungary and other Soviet satellite nations, helping to set the fuse for the implosion of communism at the end of the decade.
Late last year he was yet more active in both spheres than he had ever been before. With the European monetary system groaning under high German interest rates, Soros's Quantum Fund and its investment outriders placed a $10 billion wager that Britain would be compelled to devalue the pound sterling. When this came about, on September 16, his funds were suddenly around $1 billion richer, and Soros had become the Man Who Broke the Bank of England. He made headlines again last December by committing $100 million of his own money to stave off the dispersion of the Soviet scientific establishment and by pledging $50 million to help provide areas of safety for Bosnia's tormented civilian population. Then, in January, he lent Macedonia $25 million to buy winter heating oil. All this is on top of the approximately $100 million annual budget of his many foundations. Explaining, Soros said that his financial gains had simply outrun his ability to give them away—though his magnanimity surely helped smooth feathers ruffled by his enormous profit from Britain's monetary misfortune.