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In midst of protests, Russian billionaire announces bid for presidency

Jeremy Hobson Dec 13, 2011

In midst of protests, Russian billionaire announces bid for presidency

Jeremy Hobson Dec 13, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: Well now to Russia, where tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent days to protest fraud-tainted elections. And now, that anger has fueled a new challenge for Vladimir Putin in the March presidential elections. Billionaire Mikhael Prokhorov — who happens to own the New Jersey Nets — is going to run against Putin.

For more, we turn to Bill Browder, who’s CEO of the Russian hedge fund Hermitage Capital. Good morning.

Bill Browder: Good morning to you.

Hobson: Tell us about this guy Mikhail Prokhorov — where did he get all his money?

Browder: He was one of the original 22 oligarchs who was invovled in the sort of scandalous privitization of Russia. And his particular deal was he got control, along with one other fellow, of one of the largest nickel mines in the world, called Norels Nickel. And through that came billions and billions of dollars worth of dividends.

And then he eventually sold his stake to another oligarch and got billions and billions of dollars. He’s now the second richest Russian — I believe — with roughly a net worth of $18 billion.

Hobson: Is this sort of like a Bill Gates or a Michael Bloomberg deciding to run for president?

Browder: No, because those guys built their businesses, they didn’t essentially get them — nearly for free — from the state. I don’t know if you have any comparable examples in America of someone like that running for president.

Hobson: Is this at all comparable to what’s going on across the Arab world, or even what’s happening here in the United States, with the middle-class really looking for an alternative to the current power structure in the country?

Browder: I think it’s more comparable to what’s going on in the Arab world than in America, because what you have in Russia is a very, very small group of people — maybe 10,000 people — who are usurping all of the state resources through corruption schemes for their own economic benefit, at the expense of 141 million Russians.

So that the roads are all full of potholes, the hospitals don’t save lives, the schools don’t educate their children — to an extent that you can’t even imagine coming from America. And so, what people are angry about in Russia is that all the money’s gotten stolen, and it’s essentially being shoved down their throats to accept another 12 years of this, which is what people came out on Saturday to demonstrate against.

Hobson: Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital, a Russian hedge fund. Thanks so much for joining us.

Browder: Thank you.

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