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George Soros Scales Back: He’s Done This Before (Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2011):

As billionaire financier George Soros decides to close his $25 billion hedge fund to outside investors, it may be unwise to think Soros is out of the game for good.

You see, Soros has retrenched from high-stakes investing before — only to make a roaring comeback.

In 2000, in the wake of a a tech-stock rout and the resignation of money manager Stanley Druckenmiller, Soros made the surprise announcement to scale back his hedge-fund empire and outsource the firm’s funds to outside money managers.

Soros — the man who broke the Bank of England with a outlandish bet against the British pound — dedicated the remainder of his fund to dull investments. Our Journal colleagues in 2000 compared Soros’s shift to “Mike Tyson taking up needlepoint.”

Here are snippets from a June 2000 story from the Journal’s Greg Zuckerman:

The changes at the Soros funds, anticipated since the April departure of Mr. Soros’s top money manager, Stanley Druckenmiller, amount to an end of an era. Mr. Soros is shifting the $11 billion in assets that remain in Soros hedge funds to more conservative investments employing less leverage, or borrowed money….

The goal: to achieve more dependable returns after several years of volatility and recent heavy losses. With his bearish outlook for world stocks, and reluctance to suffer further losses, Mr. Soros decided to make a change.

“In my old age, I have become more conservative,” he said. “Using less leverage is what I want, it’s less risk . . . I’m looking for 15% returns, not 30% returns.”

But then after a year or two, Soros decided to get back in the game. He beat the Wall Street bushes for a replacement for the superstar Druckenmiller. And Soros Fund Management picked up against with fresh outside money and new money managers.

Of course, Soros now is an octogenarian, and maybe his hedge fund will stay closed for good to outside investments. But for a guy who’s made as much money and as many headlines as Soros, it’s tough to bet that he’s done playing poker.

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