I was first exposed to Bill Browder in 2006, at a hedge fund conference at Nice in the south of France. He was one of the star attractions, his Russia-focused Hermitage Fund, hailed as the best performing money fund in the world. Confident, brash, outspoken, Browder was riding a wave of the best kind of popularity - the adoration of your peers.
The Bill Browder I met with in London this week was rather different. Self-contained, professional to the point of being a little guarded. Which is hardly surprising. Browder has been through the mill and back in the dozen years since I last saw him. And the change is good. The over-riding sense is of that most rare of our species - a man who is on purpose.
In 2009, Browder’s life changed when his Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was jailed on trumped up charges, and when he refused to break after 11 months of torture, was beaten to death. As you’ll hear in what follows, that put Browder jumped onto a different path. One which accelerated in 2015 with the publication of his bestselling autobiographical book Red Notice…..
Not surprisingly, it’s a story that fascinates South Africans. Less than a year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin cast a long shadow over this country. Then South African president Jacob Zuma spoke publicly and often about his affection for Putin and regularly fired cabinet minister who refused to follow his direction – particularly over the unaffordable, unnecessary Russian nuclear power deal Zuma was determined to push through. Something Browder has followed rather closely