After his grandparents fled from Russia after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, he was born in the Chinese city of Harbin. After Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party took over power, his refugee parents left for Australia.
Raised by his secretary mother in Sydney, he was educated at the local Christian Brothers school. He then studied at the University of Sydney where he obtained a BSc degree in physics in 1975 and a BE degree in engineering in 1977, residing at St John's College. He also holds an MSc degree in Acoustics from the University of New South Wales, an MBA degree from Harvard Business School, and an Honorary Doctorate of Business from the University of New South Wales.
On graduation, he joined the Australian Army for three years, rising to the rank of Captain.
Moving to New York to train in financial services, he worked for Salomon Brothers and Credit Suisse First Boston. Relocating to London with them, he then joined Goldman Sachs, where his ultimate position was Co-head of the UK Shares Product. He left the firm in 1995.
In 1999 he launched his own hedge fund company, CQS, and has been cited in the press as one of the highest paid people in the City of London. Hintze was ranked No. 5 on Financial News' FN100 Most Influential list in the hedge fund category. CQS Asset Management, which has been described as "one of the world's leading credit market players" has assets under management reported at $11 billion. The CQS Directional Opportunities Fund, which is managed by Hintze, was ranked #3 on Bloomberg's list of the 100 top-performing large hedge funds for 2012.
In 2013, Hintze's CQS received awards for the "Best Hedge Fund Manager Overall," "Best Hedge Fund Manager in Credit," and "Best Multi-Hedge Fund Manager" at the Financial News Awards for Excellence in Institutional Hedge Fund Management. CQS was reported to be on the opposite side of the infamous JPMorgan trade by Bruno Iksil, nicknamed the London Whale, in which JPMorgan lost an estimated $2 billion. The total gains by CQS are unknown.
Hintze is credited by veteran economic commentator and journalist Alex Brummer with warning about the state of UK banking, the outlook for the UK housing market, and the scale of toxic-debt on the balance sheets of UK banks. Due to his expertise in global financial markets, Hintze has been tapped to sit on a number of boards and government panels. He was appointed by the Australian Treasury to sit on a four-person International Advisory Panel to support the Financial Systems Inquiry (FSI), which is focused on issues impacting Australia's economy such as technological change, Australia's global competitiveness and offshore regulatory frameworks.
Hintze was appointed by Pope Francis to the board of the Vatican Bank (officially known as the Institute for the Works of Religion). According to ValueWalk, “The addition of Hintze is viewed as a significant positive for the Vatican” due to the fact that he is a “no nonsense manager with deep insight into a broad range of international finance matters.”
In the UK, Hintze was also appointed to serve on the Fair and Effective Markets Review, a joint review by the Treasury, the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) focused on raising standards of conduct in the financial system.
In 2007, Hintze established MH Premium Farms (MHPF), a group of agriculture companies based mainly in Australia. MHPF now owns more than 20 properties in eastern Australia, covering a total area of more than 70,000 hectares. The properties offer a broad portfolio including: fat lambs, wool and cattle; broad acre cropping of cereals and oilseeds; irrigated cotton and sugar.
MHPF is managed by a team of agricultural specialists, led by CEO Richard Taylor, who graduated from Sydney University with a 1st class honours degree in Veterinary Science in 1987 and has since managed a number of agricultural companies in Australia.
The group maintains sustainable production practices and places an emphasis on environmental responsibility.
As part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, MHPF has also launched an undergraduate scholarship aimed at addressing the shortage of agronomists, and agriculture graduates more generally who may go on to service Australian agriculture. Offered through the University of New England, the scholarship supports a full-time, on-campus student beginning their second year of either an Agriculture or Rural Science degree with an interest in pursuing a career as an agronomist in Australia following graduation and provides recipients with an 8 week work experience placement.
With his wife Dorothy, Hintze set up the Hintze Family Charitable Foundation, which has given significant and wide-ranging philanthropic support to over 200 causes, focusing mainly on health, education, religion and the arts.
Among major donations, he has established the chair of International Security at the University of Sydney, enabled the restoration of Michelangelo's frescoes in the Pauline Chapel at the Vatican, sponsored two major galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum and in 2014 donated £5 million to the Natural History Museum, London. He also came to the aid of Wandsworth Museum, which was facing imminent closure by offering a £2 million rescue package while co-chairing Clapham's Trinity Hospice campaign for a new in-patient centre which has now been completed. The Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity has also received donations which, amongst other initiatives, have provided funding to support serving personnel and their families. Through CQS and the Hintze Family Charitable Foundation he provided funding to create a 'theatre in the round' at the Old Vic in London, amongst other significant support.
Projects have enabled the refurbishment of the V&A's Sculpture Galleries, named the Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries, and have included sponsorship of an iconic exhibition of Raphael's Tapestries from the Sistine Chapel at the V&A, and £2 million donation to the National Gallery. The donation to the National Gallery has been used in part to fund refurbishment, including the installation of new technology to reduce the gallery's running costs and carbon footprint. Support has also been provided to the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the University of Oxford Centre for Astrophysical Surveys, where the Annual Hintze Lecture has been established.
Hintze gave a $1 million gift to the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre, which focuses on turning medical research into viable treatments. Funding was provided for the construction of a residential wing at St. John’s College at the University of Sydney, which was named the Hintze Building. Hintze has also donated $1 million to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) for a new lecture theatre. The donation was made in honour of his father, Michael Hintze senior, who is also a UNSW alumnus. Gifts have also been made to Harvard University ($10m) and Princeton University, where a Professorship for the Arts has been established in his wife's maiden name (Dorothy Krauklis).
The Hintze Family Charitable Foundation is also listed as a Life Benefactor Donor to the National Theatre. Hintze was invited to the Chancellor's Court of Benefactors for his support of the University of Oxford.
Hintze currently serves as a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the University of Sydney Trust, as a Member of the Harvard Business School Board of Dean’s Advisors’, as Vice Patron of the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity. He serves as a Member of the Vatican Bank Board and sits on the Audit Committee of the Duchy of Cornwall and was formerly chairman of the Prince's Foundation for Building Community.
Hintze was formerly a trustee of the National Gallery, where he assisted in securing Titian’s Diana and Actaeon for the nation. He was initially appointed to the National Gallery's Board of Trustees by then Labour Party Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2008. He was later reappointed by Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron.
In recognition of their charitable contributions in support of the arts, Michael Hintze and his wife Dorothy received the Prince of Wales Medal for Arts Philanthropy in 2009.
In 2014, Hintze donated £5 million to the Natural History Museum. The gift is the biggest single donation received by the museum in 133 years. The gift will be used in part to fund programmes to study problems that threaten Earth's biodiversity such as the maintenance of delicate ecosystems and the impacts of environmental pollution, as well as the battle against diseases such as malaria. The museum's Central Hall has since been renamed 'Hintze Hall'.
The Guardian reported that Hintze is a donor to the sceptical Global Warming Policy Foundation.
In 2006, at the time of the Cash for Peerages allegations concerning the Labour Party, Hintze voluntarily revealed he was one of the previously anonymous patrons who had made loans to the Conservative Party. In 2011 his known loans and donations to the party totalled around £4 million. In the five months to September 2011 he donated £31,000, enough to grant him membership of the Conservative Treasurers' Group, the second highest rung on the party's donor's ladder, which allows its members access to senior Conservative figures through a series of lunches, receptions and campaign launches.
When the Conservative Party were in opposition, Hintze provided the following personal cash donations: £37,500 to George Osborne; £25,000 to David Willetts; £10,000 to the private office of Liam Fox; £1,200 to Theresa May; £7,000 to David Davis; £1,500 to Adam Holloway; £5,000 Boris Johnson. In addition, CQS made non-cash donations of: £25,763 to William Hague; £10,439 to Fox; £1,254 to George Osborne. In May 2008, David Cameron declared a donation from Hintze to the Conservative Party that was used to pay for drinks receptions for Tory MPs and their partners. In March 2008, Hintze paid for a private jet to ferry Cameron and Osborne from Newcastle to Biggin Hill after the Conservative Party conference.
In October 2011, it was revealed that Adam Werritty, a close friend and business associate of then Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox, was provided with a free desk by Hintze at CQS's London base as part of his £29,000 donation to Fox's charity The Atlantic Bridge. Hintze also supplied a private jet for Fox and Werritty to fly from the United States to London in May 2011. These disclosures led to the resignation of Liam Fox (who was then Secretary of State for Defence) and the dismissal of Hintze's then-charity adviser, Oliver Hylton.
He was made a Knight Commander of the Papal Order of St. Gregory (KCSG) by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 and was later was elevated to a Knight Grand Cross of the same Order (GCSG).
In January 2013, Hintze was appointed Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his "significant service to the community through philanthropic contributions to organisations supporting the arts, health and education."
He was knighted in the United Kingdom's 2013 Birthday Honours for services to the arts. He received his accolade on 23 October 2013 by The Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace.
Married to American citizen Dorothy, whom he met at Harvard. The couple have four children, partially educated at British private schools. Hintze is a Roman Catholic.