Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Another reason to remain cheerful about Russia

Yesterday a colleague emailed me:

[the client’s] CEO was shot (but not killed) last week, so the [deal] is a bit postponed :(

(I think adding the emoticon is a nice finishing touch, don’t you?)

This one line email gave me a bit of a boost as:

- The guy lived, right?
- It has been ages since a client of mine has been shot; years in fact, which illustrates that the so-called Wild, Wild East is becoming a normal business environment just like everywhere else (oh yes! Brittle smile… )

In fact, this email came from our Kyiv office, which is an even more important reason to be cheerful for Russians therefore. No nasty shootings with our Russian clients, oh no! But in touchy-feely, oh-so-democratic Ukraine? Um… business-by-bullet is still occasionally an issue there.

Probably there is no more eloquent testimony to President Putin’s success in bringing order and safety to Russia than the fall in the numbers of (intentional) corporate killings. And when it happens, it’s screamed from the front pages and everyone is very shocked. Actually I bet business-by-bullet is more common in the USA than here…

PS: the actual story of who shot the client and how, is… er… very funny, but there is no way I can repeat it here. Just suffice it to say long-liquid-lunches and an Uzi-semi don’t mix: as ‘props’, to make a point in a post-lunch debate, they are more ruinous than rhetorical.

Actually, come to think of it, our ‘track record’ is pretty good here. Racking my brains I don’t think we’ve lost anyone ‘on-the-job’/client-wise due to corporate hits; excluding, a tad before my time, an incident in Georgia.

There, I think, the client CFO was murdered and we instigated, for our people, a ‘crash-evac’ (as one past employer of mine called them); or fast extraction. You know the drill: beefy body-guards, armour-plated fast cars, private plane… Damn! Very cool…

Well, at least that is how a previous employer conceptualized the process. Not sure about my current one though (bus timetable and overnight train to Finland is perhaps more likely if trouble came my way… and I would have to buy the bus ticket).

Other than "shots fired!" (a shoot-out by my chauffered-Merc) in Kazakhstan, in the 1990s’ aluminium wars – advice that day to me from then British Ambassador: “We cannot guarantee your safety and we recommend you leave the country. Today please, if you can.” - and lock-down / petrol bombs in Haiti, my life has actually been rather sadly suburban.

Although there was the anonymous delivery of a ‘black silk mourning’ tie to my office on my arrival – just weeks after I shafted a well-known Russian oil company on a big deal in Turkey – and a petrol-bombing in my elitny street, one summer’s night. But, hey, that happens everywhere, right?

Favourite word of the day? ДЕМШИЗА – Demshiza; a nice mélange of democrat and schizophrenic. It’s what United Russia-types call the pro-Kasparov loons. Seemingly, with cause.

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