Are you ready to learn more about the man Business Insider dubs "George Soros lite?"
Nicolas Berggruen, a billionaire who roams around the globe, living out of five-star hotels, is working incessantly to change the way Western governments operate. Bloomberg's Jeremy Kahn describes the roots of his nomadic existence:
...in 2000, Berggruen sold his houses, put his art collection in storage and gave away or sold most of his possessions, including his car. He says his decision to live a rootless existence wasn’t a means of dodging taxes; he says he pays them in the U.S.
Berggruen, who made his billions by growing a $250,000 trust fund that his father (a wealthy art connoisseur) gave him, is being compared to Soros because of some of his policy recommendations, his passion for politics and his urge for a more integrated Europe. Plus, the generous billionaire has devoted funds to support American Democrats -- yet another fact that makes a comparison between him and Soros worth exploring.
The Wall Street Journal's Stacy Meichtry reports that Berggruen grew up in Paris, but has German roots. He spent his teenage years writing "utopian" constitutions and "occasionally clashed with authority figures."
Now, he buys debt-saddled companies, then turns them around to turn a profit. When it comes to his political work, he has already spent $100,000 to create the Nicolas Berggruen Institute. Here's more on the group (emphasis mine):
The Nicolas Berggruen Institute is dedicated to exploring new ideas of good governance. The NBI is an independent, non-partisan think tank and consultancy engaged in the comparative study and design of systems of governance suited to the new and complex challenges of the 21st century.
Our efforts seek to integrate the new possibilities of the information age with the best practices of efficient, decisive and meritocratic administration in Asia with the democratic accountability of the West. The knowledge society both enables and requires intelligent community, intelligent democracy and intelligent governance.
And it seems like he's poised to make a major impact. The Institute's Council for the Future of Europe has former Spanish and German heads of state and economic figureheads like Joseph Stiglitz on board. Berggruen even has connections to pop culture elite like Paris Hilton and Leonardo DiCaprio. Kahn writes:
Now, Berggruen is moving even farther afield in a quest to save the West from sinking into chaos. He says the stock market swoons of 2011, the brinkmanship in Washington over the debt ceiling and the euro-zone debt debacle are symptoms of the same underlying problem. “What you really have is a deep, deep governance crisis in the West,” he says.
When it comes to centralization, Berggruen and his group believe that it's necessary to bring together Europe's political systems -- this includes centralizing financial policies. He advocates greater powers for the European Central Bank and the European Financial Stability Facility so that the debt of private banks can be restructured and the debt crisis can be more readily relieved.
But it's not just Europe that Berggruen is concerned with. It was reported that he would give $20 million to the State of California to assist in restructuring its political system. Additionally, he previously donated $250,000 to oppose a 2010 measure that would have suspended California's global warming law (Proposition 23). The measure was inevitably defeated.
Watch Berggruen discuss his work to impact the political system in California and the U.S.:
[vimeo_embed http://player.vimeo.com/video/28625731?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0 expand=1]
Here's another report about his goals in California (from Fox Business):
In addition to his attempt to impact governance in the West and California, he's also been known to fund the candidacies of U.S. senators (including New York's Chuck Schumer) and President Barack Obama.
Considering his penchant for Democratic ideals, like Soros, Berggruen will be worth continued examination. However, it should be noted that he is including Republican Condoleeza Rice in his California plans -- a fact that may comfort some who worry that his agenda will mirror the extremism often observed in Soros' exploits.
(H/T: Business Insider)