George Soros’ Open Society Foundations name new president after years of layoffs and transition

FILE - George Soros, Founder and Chairman of the Open Society Foundations, looks before the Joseph A. Schumpeter award ceremony in Vienna, Austria, June 21, 2019. Soros' Open Society Foundations announced a leadership change Monday, March 11, 2024 with its president Mark Malloch-Brown stepping down and a senior leader, Binaifer Nowrojee, appointed to the role. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File)

FILE – George Soros, Founder and Chairman of the Open Society Foundations, looks before the Joseph A. Schumpeter award ceremony in Vienna, Austria, June 21, 2019. Soros’ Open Society Foundations announced a leadership change Monday, March 11, 2024 with its president Mark Malloch-Brown stepping down and a senior leader, Binaifer Nowrojee, appointed to the role. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — George Soros’ Open Society Foundations announced a leadership change Monday with its president Mark Malloch-Brown stepping down in June, set to be replaced by a senior leader, Binaifer Nowrojee. She will be the first woman from the global south to lead OSF.

Soros, the billionaire investor, said in a statement that when he started the foundations decades ago, he hoped its work would be global in scope.

“At the outset, that was merely an aspiration. But now I feel that this ambition has been fulfilled” with Nowrojee’s appointment as president, Soros said.

Most recently, Nowrojee, who is Kenyan from an Indian family, was OSF’s vice president of programs and part of a small senior leadership team overseeing a large transition that started in 2021. Last summer, the foundations announced that Alex Soros, one of George Soros’ sons, had taken over as chair of its board in December 2022.

Along with that generational change in leadership, OSF said it would layoff as much as 40% of its staff worldwide and move to a new operating model. Those layoffs followed an earlier round of buyouts and restructuring in 2021. OSF also said in July last year it was limiting new grantmaking for at least six months, until February 2024. OSF reported more than $25 billion in assets and made $1.3 billion in charitable donations in 2022.

At the time, Alex Soros told The Wall Street Journal that he was “more political” than his father and that he intended to fund political issues in the U.S. An OSF spokesperson said Alex Soros was speaking in his personal capacity and not about the direction of the foundation.

“We have endured a prolonged period of disruption, and this has not come without pain and loss, as many of you have said goodbye to colleagues and ended relationships with long-time grantees,” Nowrojee said in a note to staff Monday. “As we navigate the remaining elements of change, I promise, first and foremost, to remain committed to open society values, and to George Soros’s vision of critical thinking, local knowledge, and risk-taking.”

Nowrojee has held multiple senior leadership roles at OSF, including overseeing its foundation in East Africa and directing its work in Asia and the Pacific. An attorney, she has expertise in prosecuting crimes of sexual violence.

Kenneth Roth, the former longtime leader of investigative advocacy nonprofit Human Rights Watch, said of Nowrojee’s appointment, “She has a strong human rights background, which I hope lays to rest the speculation that OSF is moving away from downgrading the defense of human rights.”

The foundations said in its announcement Monday it was a good time for Malloch-Brown to step down “after having largely completed the transformation” at OSF.

Malloch-Brown, a former UN deputy secretary-general, vice president at the World Bank and diplomat for the United Kingdom, took over as OSF president in 2021. He had been a member of OSF’s board and will step down after his term as president ends.

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