Browder’s War With Sidanco

After opening his own firm in 1996, Browder enjoyed his luxurious lifestyle well into the next year with few if any bumps in the road.  However, things were about to change after Hermitage Capital got involved with Russian oil giant Sidanco.  What happened was that after Browder realized the company was vastly underpriced he purchased a large block of stock in the company but failed to predict that Sidanco CEO Russian oligarch Vladimir Potain would attempt a “dilutive share issue” one year later. Simply put, a dilutive share issue would have meant massive financial losses for Browder, his partners Edmond Safra and Beny Steinmetz, and other investors.

According to Browder’s book, after hearing the news about the share issue he approached Vladimir Potanin’s financial advisor and head of investment bank Renaissance Capital, Boris Jordan, at a New Year’s Eve party to sort out the issue.  Jordan reassured Browder and asked that he stop by Renaissance a few days later.  He did and the following is an alleged conversation that took place between Browder and one of Renaissance’s associates, Leonid Rozhetskin (taken from Browder’s Red Notice, emphasis is Browder’s):

Browder:  “If this dilution goes forward, it’s going to cost me and my investors—including Edmond Safra—eighty-seven million dollars.”

Rozhetskin:  “Yes, we know.  That’s the intention, Bill.”

Browder:  What?

Rozhetskin:  “That’s the intention.”

Browder:  “You’re deliberately trying to screw us?”

Rozhetskin:  “Yes.

Naturally I don’t believe Browder that this conversation ever happened but obviously I wasn’t there.  Again, according to his book, Browder told Rozhetskin that he willing to go to war with Vladimir Potanin over the dilutive share issue at which Rozhetskin simply scoffed at him.  Edmond Safra, on the other hand, allegedly took things a little more seriously and hired “more than a dozen heavily armed bodyguards” and sent four armored cars to protect Browder.  Seriously, that’s what Browder claims in his book.  Apparently the thought of taking on Potanin and his cronies was so absolutely terrifying that Browder needed fifteen ex-Mossad bodyguards carrying submachine guns to watch over him while he slept.  Yet, despite the terror that Mr. Browder was living under he moved forward with a three-part plan to take Potanin down: 

Step one:  Contact Potanin’s partners such as George Soros, the Harvard University Endowment and others and tell them about the dilutive share issue.  

Step two:  Contact journo friends who will up wrote up nice exposes.

Step three:  Contact the chairman of the Russian Federal Securities Commission (FSEC), Dmitry Vasiliev.

Surprisingly, the third step worked and in February, 2008, the FSEC halted the share issue but as cut and dry as this story might sound there’s more to it than meets the eye. Take Renaissance Capital for example.  Founded in 1995 by Boris Jordan (the one who spoke with Browder at the New Year’s Eve party) and Stephen Jennings, it’s been said they employed “a string of KGB spies.”  Furthermore, it’s the same company that paid Bill Clinton half a million dollars for a speech while promoting the Uranium One deal in Russia.  You may also recall that the @thehill recently reported that Bill Clinton requested clearance from the State Department to meet with Arkady Dvorkovich, a board director of Rosatom (which subsequently purchased Uranium One) during this time period but, interestingly enough, he ended up meeting with Putin instead. 

The other curious thing about Renaissance Capital is that in July, 2009, Browder accused the company of being involved in the $230 million tax refund theft that led to the death of Sergei Magnitsky and, of course, the Magnitsky Act.  Lo and behold, eight years later on April 13, 2017, The Telegraph ran a story reporting that the U.S. government had linked part of the stolen tax refund money to Renaissance Capital.  Eight years later.  I mean, what?  And don’t ask me what it means because all I know at this point is that something obviously doesn’t smell right.

Then there’s the whole ex-Mossad bodyguard drama and “Omg, Potanin is going to kill me” storyline which I’m not sure I’m buying either and here’s why:

Browder’s partner, Edmond Safra, sent armed Israeli guards and armored cars to protect Browder while he fought Sidanco’s share dilution, right?  Right.  And remember how Boris Jordan’s associate at Renaissance Capital allegedly told Browder that they were purposely trying to screw him?  Well, one could speculate from this information—which might I remind you came directly from Browder’s book—that Renaissance, Sidanco and Potanin were probably pretty peeved at Browder after they lost the share dilution case.  I mean, let’s be honest, no Russian oligarch likes to lose to a greedy, jackass of an American like Bill Browder (he was still a U.S. citizen at that point) so I think it’s safe to say that Browder had room to be more concerned about his safety after Sidanco lost the case.

But he wasn’t.  Not in the least.

In Andrew Meier’s book, Black Earth:  A Journey Through Russia After the Fall, Meier wrote about a dinner he had sometime after August, 1998, with Bill Browder, Peter Derby, Charlie Ryan, and…wait for it…Renaissance Capital CEO Boris Jordan.  The dinner, which consisted of “snails and caviar, king prawns, and medallions of New Zealand lamb,” lasted for over three hours during which time the five men discussed what had gone wrong in Russia (the dinner took place after the economic collapse of 1998).  And if you’re still trying to wrap your brain around the fact that Browder was enjoying a leisurely five-star meal with the head of the financial company behind Sidanco, join the club. That’s not to say that Browder and Jordan didn’t spar over the evening’s delicacies, they did.  Take for instance this amazing burn by Jordan,

Browder:  “This country’s [Russia] so corrupt they fucked themselves.”

Jordan:  “Bill, you obviously don’t believe that or else you didn’t do your fiduciary duty for your clients, investing a billion in the place.”

Ohhh snap.  And as much as I’d like to think that Browder’s Israeli bodyguards were keeping watch at the door and that Jordan and Browder fought all night in order for me to reconcile Browder’s narrative about Sidanco with this private dinner, according to Meier the dinner ended with discussions about “the price of bodyguards, the best tax havens for billionaires, and the travails of Bermudan citizenship.”  Of course it did.

Besides these guys being obvious douchebags, again, why in the world would Browder be having dinner with Potanin’s financial advisor who had recently been involved in trying to screw Browder out of a shiz ton of money…that and the bodyguards, the submachine guns, and armored cars.  I reached out to the author to see if I could get a specific date for the dinner because all I could deduce from the book was that it happened sometime after August, 1998 and before the author left Russia which was sometime between 1999-2000.  Unfortunately, the author’s only response was that he didn’t have his notes with him and that “Whatever the book has would be correct.”  I pointed out to him that the book didn’t mention a date but Meier never responded.  That was over two months ago.

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