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Layoffs hit Soros investment company

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

BOSTON (Reuters) - Soros Fund Management, the investment company of billionaire George Soros, has laid off a handful of analysts and portfolio managers in recent months.

The moves came after the New York-based fund hired a new chief investment officer, Scott Bessent, in September, and after it closed its doors to outsiders in July by reorganizing into a so-called family office to exclusively oversee the Soros family's personal fortune.

Still, the fund continues to rank as one of the world's biggest and most powerful investors with some $25 billion in assets and some 300 employees putting that money to work.

The people who were laid off analyzed stocks, said three people who are familiar with the moves but are not authorized to speak about them publicly.

Soros, who made investment history by earning $1 billion with a bet against the British pound two decades ago, is best known as a global-marcro investor, making bets on interest rates, currencies and commodities. He also owns hundreds of stocks.

A spokesman for Soros called the layoffs part of the normal course of business and gave no details.

"It would appear that with Scott Bessent installed as the new CIO, he is taking steps to put his stamp on things. And the pendulum at Soros is now swinging back to its traditional macro focus," said Gregory Cresci, an executive recruiter who specializes in hedge funds at Odyssey Search Partners.

Bessent returns to Soros, where he once ran the London office, after a decade away when he set up his own firm and worked for someone else.

While the job cuts were not massive, they are drawing attention in the tight-knit hedge fund industry, where overall returns are off and many firms are cutting costs. In light of Europe's widening debt crisis and volatile markets, trading has been especially tough this year, prompting many investors to put more money with so-called global-macro funds.

There is plenty of interest in what happens at Soros because the firm is said to be faring relatively well in a down year, is not facing widespread investor redemptions, and is still making bellweather bets. For example, Soros is believed to have some $200 million invested with Philip Falcone's Harbinger Capital Partners. Harbinger was told a week ago that financial regulators may sue the hedge fund for market manipulation.

Other hedge fund firms are also making small personnel adjustments, with Diamondback Capital letting a team of fixed income professionals go and Highbridge Capital cutting in its equity unit.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; editing by Matthew Goldstein, Jennifer Ablan and John Wallace)

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