Bill Browder is the CEO and Co-Founder of investment fund Hermitage Capital Management, which at one time was the largest foreign portfolio fund in Russia.
In Bill’s teenage years, he decided the best way to rebel against his family was to put on a suit and tie and become a Capitalist. He went to Stanford Business School, and graduated in 1989. After some soul searching to decide on the next steps of his career, he had an epiphany. Bill’s Grandfather, a Kansas labour union organiser, was the biggest communist in America – so he decided to become the biggest Capitalist in Eastern Europe.
When he left Stanford, and after the Berlin Wall came down, there wasn’t much business to do in Eastern Europe, so he moved to London and joined BCG. They had an assignment in Poland, where a bus company was failing and the World Bank was paying BCG to advise the Polish government on what to do about the failing bus factory. It was a horrifying eye opening experience to see what communism really looked like – or post communism Bill Browder would say.
Whilst Browder was in this little town, the Polish Government were doing their first privatisation of companies in 1990 at one half of one year’s earnings. If the price of the company was worth half of what it’s earning, then you only have to be in business for 6 months to get your money back – it was a pretty good deal. Bill Browdersaw this opportunity and took his life savings, $2,000, and invested into these Polish privatisations for the next year, making 10x his money. He was 30 when his funds increased by 865% – valued at a billion dollars.
But the story doesn’t end there and what happens next, including his fall out with Russia, shaped Bill’s life forever.
Today’s episode highlights the sheer determination of taking risks, and that spotting an opportunity can lead to great success even in dire circumstances.
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