George Soros is having a very good crisis. Other investors are wilting, political power structures are being upended and market economists are scrambling to fashion new theories, but the world’s most famous speculator is having a belated heyday.
“It is, in a way, the culminating point of my life’s work,” the 78-year-old says in his heavy Hungarian accent during an interview at his London mansion.
If Soros had retired from the money markets at 48 to become a philosopher – which was his life plan when he set up his own Wall Street hedge fund at the age of 43 – the world is unlikely to have heard of him, as either an ideas man or a money man. Even if he had ended his career 20 years later, he would have been remembered as little more than the big-stakes gambler who “broke the Bank of England” with his 1992 bet against the pound that earned him $US1.1 billion.
At 68 Soros had just predicted a global financial collapse which did not happen, just as he had done a decade earlier; his pet theory of market behaviour, which he calls “reflexivity”, had been largely ignored; and his political donations had bought him little sway in Washington. Yet today, he says, all those strands seem to have come together – “the American election, the financial crisis, the theory of reflexivity, so it is actually a very stimulating period”.