- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition / First Printing edition (February 3, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 147675571X
- ISBN-13: 978-1476755717
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3,237 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice Hardcover – February 3, 2015
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“Reads like a classic thriller, with an everyman hero alone and in danger in a hostile foreign city . . . but it’s all true.” (Lee Child, bestselling author of the Jack Reacher series)
"The first half of Red Notice traces Browder’s improbable journey from prep-school washout through college, business school, and a series of consulting and Wall Street jobs before becoming Russia’s largest foreign investor....This book-within-a-book does for investing in Russia and the former Soviet Union what Liar’s Poker did for our understanding of Salomon Brothers, Wall Street, and the mortgage-backed securities business in the 1980s. Browder’s business saga meshes well with the story of corruption and murder in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, making Red Notice an early candidate for any list of the year’s best books." (Norman Pearlstine Fortune)
"The story of Sergei Magnitsky's life and death is a shocking true-life thriller, and Bill Browder was the man to write it." (Tom Stoppard)
“In Red Notice, Bill Browder tells the harrowing and inspiring story of how his fight for justice in Russia made him an unlikely international human rights leader and Vladimir Putin's number-one enemy. It is the book for anyone interested in understanding the culture of corruption and impunity in Putin's Russia today, and Browder’s heroic example of how to fight back.” (Senator John McCain)
"This book reads like a thriller, but it's a true, important, and inspiring real story. Bill Browder is an amazing moral crusader, and his book is a must-read for anyone who seeks to understand Russia, Putin, or the challenges of doing business in the world today." (Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and The Innovators)
"Browder’s true story is a heart-in-your-throat page turner, and the only close-up look I know of what it’s like to take on Putin. It is also a moving account of a man who found his calling, and ended up winning in the end." (Bryan Burrough, co-author of Barbarians at the Gate and author of Public Enemies and The Big Rich)
"A fascinating, heart-stopping account of how to take on Putin--and win. It's exciting to read about Browder's roller-coaster ride to wealth in Russia, and to learn how his compassion for Sergei Magnitsky, his murdered lawyer, inspired his memorable struggle against the venal apparatchiks of a corrupt state. This is the gripping--and absolutely true--story behind the Magnitsky Law, a signal advance in human rights." (Geoffrey Robertson, human rights lawyer and author of Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle For Global Justice)
"This indispensable look at the brutal realities of the Putin regime is of even greater relevance thanks to Bill Browder’s unique expertise and personal experience inside the belly of the beast.” (Garry Kasparov, Chess Grandmaster and author of How Life Imitates Chess)
"Bill Browder has become one of the most sincerely hated men in the Kremlin over the years--and that is something to be incredibly proud of. . . . This book shows the difference that one person can make when they refuse to back down, as told by a fellow soldier in the battle to hold Putin to account." (Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina, members of Pussy Riot)
About the Author
Bill Browder, founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, was the largest foreign investor in Russia until 2005. Since 2009, when his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was murdered in prison after uncovering a $230 million fraud committed by Russian government officials, Browder has been leading a campaign to expose Russia’s endemic corruption and human rights abuses. Before founding Hermitage, Browder was vice president at Salomon Brothers. He holds a BA in economics from the University of Chicago and an MBA from Stanford Business School.
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Red Notice is the story of Bill Browder's hedge fund, Hermitage Capital, which at one time was the largest foreign investor in Russia. Hermitage produced extremely high returns and, before its demise, Browder had four and a half billion dollars under management. Unlike hedge funds like Long Term Capital Management (Inventing Money), the fund didn't blowup (although it came close in 1998). Instead, it was destroyed by the corrupt Russian government. This the story of Heritage Capital's rise and fall. It is also the story of the murder of a Russian tax lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky who worked for Browder. Red Notice is also an account of Bill Browder's crusade for at least some measure of justice for Magnitsky.
Boris Yeltsin and his advisers who inherited the Russian state wanted to make sure that communism would never return. To do this they wanted to create a capitalist state that would replace the centrally planned communist economy. Gorbachev had almost been overthrown in a coup by the communist old guard, so Yeltsin and his advisers felt that they had to put the state on an irreversible course away from communism as soon as possible. This meant privatizing the assets of the communist state (which was all of Russian) in a vast fire sale. Many assets and newly formed companies were sold for a fraction of their value. This was the environment that gave rise to the Oligarchs, brilliant and ruthless men who built multi-billion dollar fortunes from the rubble of the Soviet State.
Bill Browder's grandmother was Russian and his grandfather was the head of the American Communist Party. He was fascinated by Eastern Europe and when few people saw the possibilities in Russia he established a hedge fund that became wildly successful buying up under priced Russian assets.
The first half of the book is the story of how Browder built Hermitage Capital. Browder comes from a brilliant family. His father is a noted mathematician and his brother is a physicist. When he was young, Bill seemed to be something of an underachiever, at least compared to the rest of his family. Browder did manage to work his way into Stanford Business school and from there to a job at Salomon Brothers.
One of the things that impressed me about Browder is his self-confidence and ability to take risks. Salomon Brothers reaction to the "out-of-the-ballpark" investments that Browder made for them was to form a "task force" to study the issue (and then take credit for Browder's work). Browder quite Salomon Brothers and founded Hermitage Capital. He managed to get the famous billionaire investor Edmond Safra to put up the initial money for the fund and went on to make huge profits.
Browder seems to honestly recount his history, even when the admissions must have been painful. He did not foresee the Russian bond default in 1998 and Hermitage Capital lost 90% of its capital. He managed to build the fund back up in he next few years, recovering all of the losses and delivering record profits. The standard share for hedge funds is 20% of the profits, so Browder must also have become a very wealthy man (e.g., hundreds of millions of dollars).
Post-Soviet Russia developed into a kleptocracy. People in the government and those with the necessary connections were stripping assets and stealing. Some of the assets, like the energy company Gazprom, were so huge that even a gang of dedicated thieves could only steal a fraction of the assets. Hermitage Capital invested in Gazprom and other companies. After buying the under-priced assets they exposed the corruption, which at least for a time drove the thieves away and caused stock prices to rise.
Browder writes that exposing corruption worked well while Putin was gaining power, since it cleared away some of the oligarchs that were in his way. But once Putin came to power and became the kleptocrat-in-chief, Hermitage Capital's investment strategy was no longer tolerated.
Browder was making vast amounts of money and lauded as a brilliant fund manager. He writes that he did not see the new reality of Putin unfold until it was too late. The second half of the book is about how Putin's gang tried to crush Hermitage Capital and everyone associated with it. Ultimately this resulted in the murder of Sergei Magnitsky.
Before founding Hermitage Capital Browder worked for the London office of Salomon Brothers. He married a British woman and they had a son. Somewhere along the way, Browder became a British subject and renounced his US citizenship. Britian allows dual citizenship, so Browder could have become a British subject and remained a US citizen. But he chose not to do this.
People who renounce their US citizenship generally do so for tax reasons. Whether this is true for Browder is not clear. The United Kingdom is hardly a low tax haven. There may have been other, more emotional reasons. What ever the case, there is some irony in Browder's renouncing his US citizenship, since it was the US that allowed him to gain some measure of retribution by passing the Sergei Magnitsky Act. Of course the fact that Browder is extremely wealthy helped him gain access that would have been denied to ordinary mortals.
Through this remarkable tale the reader sees Browder grow through the adversity he experiences. At the end of the book he regrets that he was not wiser and did not see Russia clearly for what it was. Such regrets are common for anyone who examines their life. Browder has written a remarkable book about his painful journey to his wiser self.
The book is written with remarkable clarity and deftly explains difficult subject matter. It is extremely timely as it provides the backdrop for the meeting that Donald Trump, Jr. held with a Russian lawyer who wanted to discuss lifting the Magnitsky sanctions.
The truth about Putin’s Russia
Putin alone is reported to have amassed a fortune of at least $40 billion. Other observers consider him the richest man in the world, with assets totaling more than $100 billion. Though from time to time we’ve also read reports about the murder of whistle-blowers, investigative journalists, and opposition politicians, these fragmentary reports don’t make clear just ruthless and brazen the rulers of Putin’s Russia have shown themselves to be
Russian-American journalist Masha Geffen’s expose, The Man Without a Face, gave us insight into the rise of Putin himself. Now comes Red Notice, Bill Browder‘s lucid memoir of nearly two decades’ involvement in the Russian financial markets. Through painful personal experience, Browder bore witness to the violence and other criminal behavior that built the great fortunes at the top of Russia’s economic pyramid today.
An investment adviser turns civil rights activist
Red Notice encompasses two stories. First is the remarkable tale of how Browder made a fortune through investments in Russia in the 1990s and early 2000s. Second is the story of how quickly his business, his life, and his colleagues’ lives began falling apart once Browder ran afoul of Vladimir Putin. He began his career as an investment adviser. He ended it as a civil rights activist.
Browder is a remarkable figure in his own right. His grandfather was Earl Browder, who headed the US Communist Party during the 1930s and 40s and twice ran for President on its ticket. Other members of his family, including his father, two uncles, and his brother, are not just progressive politically but prodigies in science and math as well. They hold distinguished professorships in their fields at top universities. (“In my family,” Browder writes, “if you weren’t a prodigy, then you had no place on earth.”) Bill Browder himself rebelled against his family from an early age, resolving to do the one thing that would most upset his family: become a capitalist. And so he did, earning an MBA from Stanford and going to work for the investment bank Salomon Brothers and later as a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group.
Making billions from privatization
Browder’s interest in Eastern Europe soon got him involved in some of the very first privatizations in that region. Later, having proven his ability to pick wise investments in Poland and elsewhere in the region, he founded his own firm in Moscow, Hermitage Capital Management. With substantial funds from Israeli and American investors, Browder quickly built Hermitage into “the best-performing emerging-markets fund in the world” in 2000. By the early years of this century, the firm held $4.5 billion in assets. It had been started only in 1996 with $25 million. Browder made all this money taking great risks with large investments in what appeared to be sure-fire 50- or 100-to-1 payoffs as the Russian privatization program proceeded. He turned out to be right again and again.
This process of privatization lay the foundation for many of today’s great fortunes in Russia. “Instead of 150 million Russians sharing the spoils of mass privatization,” which had been the alleged purpose of the program, “Russia wound up with twenty-two oligarchs owning 39 percent of the economy and everyone else living in poverty. . . [B]y the year 2000 the richest person had become 250,000 times richer than the poorest person.” This is not the way business works in most of the rest of the world. It’s criminality, pure and simple. It may be unkind to point out that Browder might well have been one of these oligarchs had he been Russian. The fortune he built was considerable.
From Putin’s favor to criminal charges
Once Browder ran afoul of Putin and his cronies, the full might of the Russian government began mobilizing to ruin him. Police official raided not just his offices but those of his lawyers as well on the basis of trumped-up charges. Criminals literally stole three of his companies by forging documents and filing them in obscure provincial courts. Bogus complaints were lodged against Browder and his lawyers for tax evasion, beginning a years-long saga which ended when criminals engineered the theft of $230 million from the Russian government—the same amount Browder’s firm had actually paid in taxes! But all this legal maneuvering was only the beginning. During these times, Browder successfully moved all his assets out of Russia and out of reach. When the criminals realized there was nothing to steal, the threats escalated. Browder then managed to extract two of his principal lawyers from the country before they could be jailed and tortured. A third, Sergei Magnitsky, was not so lucky.
Much of Red Notice is about Bill Browder’s years-long effort to gain Magnitsky’s freedom. When he failed, and Magnitsky eventually died before the age of 40 from torture, medical neglect, and a vicious beating by guards when he was deathly ill, Browder became virtually a full-time civil rights activist. It was in large part through his efforts that the US government eventually took action against the 60 individuals who had taken part in the illegal jailing, torture, medical neglect, and murder of Sergei Magnitsky. With help from several remarkable government officials, he even managed to persuade a very reluctant Obama Administration to issue sanctions personally directed at the 60. Their vehicle was the Magnitsky Act of 2012, which Browder was instrumental in passing. It’s a truly moving and remarkable tale.
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The writing, though, is a bit amateurish.Read more