U.S. hedge fund billionaire investor George Soros in September named Patrick Gaspard as the new acting president of his global foundations, which are now in the No. 2 spot by assets among philanthropic organizations after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Soros spoke publicly in October about an $18 billion gift to his Open Society Foundations, which now hold the bulk of his fortune.
It’s one of the largest transfers of wealth ever made by a private donor to a single foundation, NY Times reported.
Gaspard was a top aide to President Barack Obama, a national Democratic Party official and former U.S. ambassador to South Africa.
Currently vice president of the Open Society Foundations, Gaspard will take over as president at the beginning of 2018 following Christopher Stone’s resignation.
A Holocaust survivor and Hungarian refugee, Soros founded the global philanthropy network to promote human rights, oppose intolerance and promote democracy. He is a major donor to the Democratic Party and supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
The election of Donald Trump had given the organization a new sense of urgency, Gaspard said in a New York Times report. Trump’s commission on voter fraud “utterly lacks integrity,” Gaspard said. “Our work on equal access and protection is more vital than it’s ever been.”
Gaspard, 50, met Stone four years ago in South Africa when they were attending a lecture on South Africa’s Constitutional Court, Wall Street Journal reported in September. It was through Stone that Gaspard became involved in Open Society.
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After Stone resigned, Soros wrote a letter crediting Stone with successfully preparing the foundations to be run by a global board when Soros, 87, is no longer involved.
“Patrick Gaspard has invaluable experience both inside and outside government, strong advocacy skills and the strategic savvy the organization and the governing board needs to build on Chris’s contributions,” Soros said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.
An Open Society spokeswoman said at the time no search was planned for the president post.
Soros’ foundation is different from the Gates Foundation, Financial Review reported:
“Rather than try to solve discrete problems like disease, Open Society aims to promote values like democracy, tolerance and inclusion, which Soros, a Holocaust survivor, holds dear. In practice, this means that his money is less likely to fund early stage medical research and more likely to help refugees displaced by conflict. But while the issues they address are distinct, the broad outlines of these billionaires’ efforts have much in common: shaping the world in their moral image.
“It is not called the Soros Foundation,” Gaspard said. “George approaches this philanthropic effort without an eye toward the preservation of his reputation and legacy, but with a fierce determination around the protection of these ideas and ideals.”
Soros is a lightning rod for conservative and Republican criticism.
When news of his $18 billion gift was announced, Fox News called him an “Uberliberal billionaire.” Breitbart said the gift “makes his organization the biggest player on the American political scene,” and that “the foundation’s work has supported dogmatic, aggressive left-wing groups that disrupt liberal democracy and stifle opposing voices”.
Soros spent millions of dollars trying to defeat Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Some of his causes that are unpopular with many Republicans include promoting liberal drug laws, promoting gay rights and drawing attention to police abuses.
Soros is not courting controversy. He’s just on the right side of history, Gaspard said, according to the Financial Review:
“The rights of the Jewish community in 1937 in Berlin may have been deemed controversial by some in that society, but we all appreciate today the inherent value in that fight,” Gaspard said. “The same is true today, when we are involved in safe needle transfers for drug addicts, or when we’re engaged in supporting the rights of sex workers in Johannesburg, or the Rohingya in Myanmar.”
Soros funded Ebola treatment centers during the 2014 outbreak, a center for Roma art and culture, and efforts to protect U.S. citizens from what his foundation described as “a national wave of hate incidents” after the 2016 election, according to NY Times.