George Soros

One of the few money managers who truly deserve the label "legendary," Soros presides over the sprawling hedge fund that bears his name. He's also one of the world's leading philanthropists and a vociferous political activist.

A Holocaust survivor, in 1956, Soros came to the U.S. with $5,000 in his pocket and eventually went on his own in 1969, forming the Quantum Fund-perhaps the most famous hedge fund of all time. Starting off with $13 million in capital, Quantum racked up above-average returns throughout the '70s. Soros moved away from day-to-day management of his financial empire in the 1990s, but Soros leapt out of retirement during the summer of 2007 as the credit crisis swept the global financial markets.

Soros's business activities and political agenda have long stirred up controversy. In the '90s, government officials in Beijing accused him of being a CIA operative for pushing for democratic reform in China. Here at home, his fierce opposition to Bush has made him a lightning rod on the political right and a perfect boogeyman for conspiracy-minded types who cannot seem to conjure up a more frightening thought than "a foreign-accented currency speculator, answerable only to himself, who believes in the right to die, liberalized drug laws and gun control and more cooperation with the United Nations." [Image via Getty]