Centaurus Founder To Focus On Philanthropy

May 7 2012 | 12:59pm ET

Centaurus Capital founder John Arnold will turn his attentions to philanthropy after shutting down his hugely successful natural gas hedge fund.

Arnold said on Wednesday that he would liquidate Centaurus and retire at 38. And after 17 years trading the commodity, including at the infamous Enron Corp., Arnold is ready to join fellow recent hedge fund retiree George Soros as a full-time philanthropist.

Arnold and his wife, Laura, are already big players in the giving world. The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked them the 11th-biggest donors in the U.S. last year, for having given away $101 million. And the two are likely to be active in more ways than just writing checks.

"They make a distinction between charity and philanthropy," Rice University board of trustees Chairman Jim Crownover told Reuters. "They think investment vs. donations. They're looking at places where the market doesn't work, like in education."

The Arnolds both serve Rice, which is in their hometown of Houston, she as a trustee and he as an overseer of its $4.5 billion endowment.

The two set up a $700 million foundation four years ago. In addition to Rice, they have given money to the Innocence Project, which works to exonerate the wrongfully convicted, funding a study that the Texas Legislature is now using to establish a uniform standard for eyewitness identifications. Innocence co-founder Barry Scheck said the study would not have borne fruit without their backing.

The Arnolds are also expected to focus on other tough issues, such as pension reform and public schools.

"We have the benefit of being young, so we can look at very complicated problems," the retiring billionaire told the Chronicle last year. "We have years to see these through."

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