Updated from 2:05 p.m. EDT
George Soros, the multibillionaire financier known for his high-risk global investments, abandoned that strategy Friday and unveiled a far more conservative course after two of his top managers resigned because of more than $5 billion in losses in the volatile
"Our large macro bet days are over," Soros, founder of the
Soros Fund Management
family of high-risk investment funds known as hedge funds, said in an interview that followed the resignations of his high-profile managers Stanley Druckenmiller and Nicholas Roditi.
Druckenmiller, the chief investment strategist for Soros, had been betting heavily on technology companies just before the technology-laden Nasdaq lost more than a third of its value in the first two weeks of April.
Druckenmiller, 46, has spent 12 1/2 years working for Soros, a legendary multibillionaire known for taking big risks in global financial markets. The departure of Druckenmiller, who had run the day-to-day operations of Soros' $8.2 billion
fund, could lead to a hemorrhage of investor capital.
Roditi, 54, managed the $1.2 billion
fund under Soros.
Roditi took a temporary medical leave of absence in the fall of 1998 after Soros closed one of the Quantum funds and merged two others. The Quota fund had been one of the most successful hedge funds between 1992 to 1996, with an annual compound return of 56.6%.
Together, Druckenmiller and Roditi managed nearly two-thirds of the Soros firm's total assets, which exceed $14 billion.
The turnabout by Soros represents an enormous retreat by a major global investor from risky markets and could cause others who have sought to mimic Soros' strategy to follow him.
The Soros fund's demise stemmed primarily from large bets on technology stocks before the Nasdaq fall and to a lesser extent an erroneous assumption that the euro, the single European currency, would increase in value against the dollar.
The Quantum Fund will take the name
and will be managed by Duncan Hennes.
Soros hired Hennes, a former treasurer at
, last fall to serve as chief executive, primarily in charge of administrative chores like hiring and compensation.
"If the new Quantum can average 15% a year, I'd be very happy," Soros said. In its 31 1/2-year history, the Quantum fund had an annual return in excess of 30%.
Shareholders in the Quantum fund will be offered the choice to stay with the lower-risk Quantum Endowment fund, switching to any of the specialized funds when they are established, or cashing in their investments.
The Quota fund will be managed by an unnamed outside adviser. Shareholders in the Quota fund will have the opportunity to remain in the Quota fund, move over to the portion managed by the new adviser, or take cash.
Soros ruled out any chance that he would return to manage either fund, saying, "I have no intention of coming back into active management."
In a letter to shareholders Friday, Soros wrote: "We have come to realize that a large hedge fund like Quantum Fund is no longer the best way to manage money. Markets have become extremely unstable and historical measures of value at risk no longer apply. Quantum is far too big and its activities too closely watched by the market to be able to operate successfully in this environment. My own needs are for a more reliable stream of income to fund my charitable activities. To meet those needs, we shall convert Quantum fund into a lower risk/lower reward operation. We shall engage in a variety of less volatile macro and arbitrage strategies, with a smaller portion of the assets devoted to stock picking on the long and short side."
Druckenmiller said he had started selling tech stock four weeks ago. "My timing on
selling tech stocks could have been better," he acknowledged. But he added that he had no regrets about going into technology to start with, having realized large gains over the past year despite the recent fall in the market.